ABUJA, Nigeria — Two new cases of Ebola have emerged in Nigeria and, in an alarming development, they are outside the group of caregivers who treated an airline passenger who arrived with Ebola and died, Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said today.
The two are spouses of a man and woman who had direct contact with Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer, who flew into Nigeria last month with the virus and infected 11 others before he died in July, including the male and female caregiver who both subsequently died of Ebola, Chukwu told reporters in Abuja, the capital.
Nigerian officials initially claimed the risk of exposure to others was minimal because Sawyer was whisked into isolation after arriving at the airport. But Lagos state health commissioner later Jide Idris acknowledged earlier this month that Sawyer was not immediately quarantined the first day.
The latest two cases bring the total number of confirmed infections in Nigeria, including Sawyer, to 14. Five have died from the illness, five recovered and were discharged from hospital while another four are being treated in isolation in Lagos, the commercial capital where Sawyer’s flight landed.
The damage has been far greater in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, which have each recorded hundreds of cases. Liberia has seen the most deaths, with 576.
In Liberia a teenage boy died after being shot by security forces in a slum community that was blockaded this week to stop the spread of Ebola, a Liberia government spokesman said today.
Shakie Kamara, who relatives said was either 15 or 16, was one of three people who sustained serious injuries during an altercation Wednesday that erupted after security forces blocked roads in and out of the West Point slum housing at least 50,000 people.
Speaking on a breakfast radio program today, Information Minister Lewis Brown confirmed Kamara’s death but defended the actions of security forces, saying they had been trying to prevent rioting and looting in West Point.
“We are trying to reach out to the family to express our sympathy and are putting measures in place to ensure that such incident does not happen again,” he said.
The incident risked raising tensions in West Point, which has already been a flash point. Last weekend residents ransacked a holding center for Ebola patients after realizing that some patients had come from other parts of the city. Looters then made off with materials including blood-stained mattresses and sheets that could spread the disease.
Kamara’s grandmother, Eva Nah, broke down in tears during an interview with a local television station after the death was confirmed. “His body was lying on the cold ground,” she said.
Residents expressed outrage after hearing the news.
“We will make sure that this is brought to the attention of the international community,” said Darious Kollie, a local activist who lives in West Point. “We are not joking about it.”