Ebola death toll passes 1 500 mark, says WHO
Geneva - The death toll from the Ebola outbreak tearing through West Africa has passed the 1 500 mark while the number of cases has soared past 3 000, the World Health Organisation said on Thursday.
As of 26 August 26, 1 552 people had died from the murderous epidemic that reared its head at the beginning of the year, while 3 062 had become infected, the UN's health body said.
On 20 August, the toll stood at 1 427 deaths out of 2 600 cases.
Nigeria on Thursday said that a doctor had died from Ebola in the southeastern oil city of Port Harcourt in the first case of the deadly virus outside of its biggest city, Lagos.
Health minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said the medic died on 22 August after treating a patient who had contact with the Liberian-American man who brought the virus to Nigeria, and who died in a Lagos hospital on 25 July.
"Following the report of this death by the doctor's widow the next day, the case had been thoroughly investigated and laboratory analysis showed that this doctor died from EVD [Ebola Virus Disease]," he told reporters in the capital Abuja.
The latest case brings to six the number of people who have died from the haemorrhagic fever in Nigeria. Fifteen people have now been confirmed to have the disease.
On Wednesday, Chukwu had said that the virus was contained because there were no cases outside Lagos, but warned against complacency in fighting the disease.
News that a doctor died 435km away will raise fears about the spread of the virus, just as Nigerians began to think that they had stopped Ebola in its tracks.
Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers state, is the centre of Nigeria's oil industry and home to a number of oil giants, including Anglo-Dutch giant Shell and US firm Chevron.
Chukwu said a patient who had contact with the Liberian-American victim managed to slip through the net and go to Port Harcourt in the last week of July, where he saw the doctor after showing Ebola-like symptoms.
"After four days, following a manhunt for him, he returned to Lagos by which time he was found to be without symptoms," Chukwu told reporters.
"This case would have been of no further interest since he had completed the 21 days of surveillance without any other issue but for the fact that the doctor who treated him died last Friday."
Following the doctor's death, the minister said that several contacts had now been "traced, registered and placed under surveillance". He did not specify how many.
His widow has shown symptoms of the virus and has been placed in isolation pending results of laboratory tests, he added.