Monday, October 20, 2014

Nigeria officially declared Ebola free

Nigeria is expected to be declared officially free of Ebola on Monday, after six weeks with no new cases.

Africa's most populous country won praise for its swift response after an infected Liberian diplomat brought the disease there in July.

The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared Senegal Ebola-free on Friday.

The current outbreak has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa, most in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone

An estimated 70% of those infected have died in those countries.

Meanwhile, European Union foreign ministers are meeting in Luxembourg to discuss how to strengthen their response to the threat posed by Ebola.

European countries have committed more than 500m euros (£400m; $600m) but the UK is pressing to double that amount.

The money is being sought to help reinforce over-stretched healthcare systems in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and to mitigate the damage Ebola is doing to their economies.

Earlier, the Spanish government said a nurse who became the first person to contract Ebola outside West Africa had tested negative for the virus.

The result suggests Teresa Romero, 44, is no longer infected although a second test is required before she can be declared free of Ebola.

Ms Romero contracted the virus when treating two infected patients in a Madrid hospital.

In another development, US health officials said most of the people quarantined after coming into contact with Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan had been given the all-clear. The 21-day monitoring period applied to about 50 people.

Two nurses at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas became infected with Ebola after treating Mr Duncan, who was from Liberia. He died on 8 October.

Nigeria praised
The WHO can declare an Ebola outbreak over if two incubation periods of 21 days pass with no new cases. The last reported case in Nigeria was discovered on 5 September, and the country is now on the verge of a clean bill of health.

The BBC's Will Ross in Lagos says that although the nation is heaving a collective sigh of relief, experts warn that Ebola will probably return to Nigeria.

The outbreak there began when Patrick Sawyer, an American-Liberian citizen, was diagnosed with the illness in July.

Nigeria declared a national public health emergency and Sawyer later died of the disease, followed by seven Nigerians.

These included Dr Ameyo Stella Adadevoh, who diagnosed Sawyer and is credited with helping to contain the outbreak at its source.

John Vertefeuille, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that Nigeria had taken the right steps to contain the outbreak.

"Nigeria acted quickly and early and on a large scale" he told AFP news agency. "They acted aggressively, especially in terms of contact-tracing", he added.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Nigerian military and Boko Haram agree to ceasefire and release of kidnapped schoolgirls

Nigeria's military says it has agreed a ceasefire with Islamist militants Boko Haram - and that the schoolgirls the group has abducted will be released.

Nigeria's chief of defence staff, Alex Badeh, announced the truce. Boko Haram has not made a public statement.

The group has been fighting an insurgency since 2009, with some 2,000 civilians reportedly killed this year.

Boko Haram sparked global outrage six months ago by abducting more than 200 schoolgirls.

The girls were seized in the north-eastern town of Chibok in Borno state, and their continued captivity has led to criticism of the Nigerian government's efforts to secure their release.

Members of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign said in a tweet on Friday: "We are monitoring the news with huge expectations." 'Cautiously optimistic'

Air Chief Marshal Badeh revealed the truce at the close of a three-day security meeting between Nigeria and Cameroon. He said Nigerian soldiers would comply with the agreement.

Nigerian presidential aide Hassan Tukur told BBC Focus on Africa that the agreement was sealed after a month of negotiations, mediated by Chad.

As part of the talks, a government delegation twice met representatives of the Islamist group.

Mr Tukur said Boko Haram had announced a unilateral ceasefire on Thursday and the government had responded.

"They've assured us they have the girls and they will release them," he said.

"I am cautiously optimistic."

He said arrangements for their release would be finalised at another meeting next week in Chad's capital, Ndjamena.

The negotiations are said to have the blessing of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, reports the BBC's Chris Ewokor in Abuja.

Speaking to the BBC, Nigerian government spokesman Mike Omeri said Boko Haram would not be given territory under the ceasefire agreement - and that the government would not reveal what concessions it would make.

"We are inching closer to release of all groups in captivity, including the Chibok girls," he said.


Related story: Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau apparently alive - releases new video

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Vomiting airline passenger dies enroute from Nigeria to New York

A plane from Nigeria landed at JFK Airport Thursday with a male passenger aboard who had died during the flight after a fit of vomiting — and CDC officials conducted a “cursory” exam before announcing there was no Ebola and turning the corpse over to Port Authority cops to remove, Rep. Peter King said on Thursday.

The congressman was so alarmed by the incident — and by what he and employees see as troubling Ebola vulnerabilities at JFK — that he fired off a letter to the federal Department of Homeland Security demanding more training and tougher protocols for handling possible cases there.
The unnamed, 63-year-old passenger had boarded an Arik Air plane out of Lagos, Nigeria, on Wednesday night, a federal law enforcement source said.

During the flight, the man had been vomiting in his seat, the source said. Some time before the plane landed, he passed away. Flight crew contacted the CDC, federal customs officials and Port Authority police, who all boarded the plane at around 6 a.m. as about 145 worried passengers remained on board, the source said.
“The door [to the terminal] was left open, which a lot of the first responders found alarming,” said the source.

“My understanding was that the passenger was vomiting in the seat,” King (R-LI) said.
“The CDC went on the plane, examined the dead body and said the person did not have Ebola,” King said.
“It was what I was told a cursory examination. The Port Authority cops and personnel from Customs and Border Protection were there, and they were told there was no danger because the person did not have Ebola,” King said.
“But their concern was, how could you tell so quickly? And what adds to the concern is how wrong the CDC has been over the past few weeks.”

Between 70 and 100 passengers a day arrive at JFK from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the three West African countries that are the epicenter of the outbreak, King said.
“These individuals transit the airport with the rest of the traveling population, including using the restrooms,” King wrote to Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, in a letter Thursday.
“Only after they arrive at the Customs and Border Patrol primary screening location that they are separated and sent to secondary inspection for a medical check and to complete the questionnaire,” he wrote Johnson.
King’s letter demands that Homeland Security immediately beef up protocols for what happens to potentially infected passengers in flight and at the terminal itself, prior to their reaching the screening location.

The letter also demands that training and safety equipment improve for the Port Authority police and Customs and Border Patrol officials who can come into contact with high-risk passengers.
“I believe there should be a suspension of direct flights and connecting flights from these three countries,” King said. “And maybe anyone with a visa from those countries, and who has been living in those countries, should be barred” from entering the US, he added.

No other information was immediately available about the deceased Nigerian passenger.
Nigeria is 1,000 miles east of the three West African countries suffering from an Ebola outbreak, but has had 19 confirmed cases of the deadly virus. The country has had no new cases over the past month; the World Health Organization has said that if there are still no new cases of Ebola by Monday, they will officially declare the country “Ebola-free.”

NY Post

Stephen Keshi no longer Nigeria Super Eagles coach

 Nigeria have confirmed the departure of the head coach, Stephen Keshi, despite their 3-1 win over Sudan in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Wednesday night.

Shaibu Amodu is set to be installed as caretaker for the remaining two Group A games against Congo and South Africa. Amodu has had three previous spells in charge of Nigeria, from 1994-95, 1998-99 and 2008-10.

Nigeria have four points from four games in Group A and are four points behind South Africa.

Keshi had been out of contract after the World Cup but was then tasked with navigating the Super Eagles’ route to next year’s tournament in Morocco. However, he said that their qualification campaign was being “sabotaged” after they were defeated by Congo, drew in South Africa and lost in Sudan in their opening three games.

The Guardian

Related stories: Stephen Keshi is ranked 24th best coach in the world

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

College in Texas apoligizes for rejecting Nigerian applicants due to Ebola scare

A Texas college apologized on Tuesday for what it's calling "incorrect information" after multiple international applicants received a rejection letter saying that "Navarro College is not accepting international students from countries with confirmed Ebola cases."

Navarro, a two-year public college in Corsicana, is about 60 miles from Dallas, where two health-care workers have been diagnosed with Ebola; the most recent case was confirmed early Wednesday morning. Thomas Eric Duncan, an Ebola-stricken Liberian man who was treated at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, died last week from the illness.

The letter recipients are from Nigeria, a country that hasn't had a new Ebola case in more than 21 days. The World Health Organization is prepared to declare the Ebola outbreak over in Africa's largest country as soon as Monday.

Nigeria managed to contain the Ebola outbreak to just 20 cases, all connected to a Liberian-American air traveler who brought the virus into the country in late July.

Idris Bello, a Nigerian-American who now lives in Texas, posted Navarro College's rejection letter to Twitter earlier this week. In an e-mail, Bello told The Post that he received a copy of the letter from Kamor Abidogun, a friend of his in Houston who works as a mechanical engineer.

Washington Post

Related story: Nigeria dropped from Ebola screening list in U.S. and Canada