Senegal defends Ebola border closure
Senegal has defended the closure of its border with Guinea because of the Ebola outbreak, despite warnings that such measures are counterproductive.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says travel bans do not work, especially if they stop doctors going to help tackle the crisis.
Senegal’s Health Minister Dr Eva Marie Colle Seck told the BBC the WHO was “learning, like everybody [else]”.
In Liberia, a boy of 16 shot while protesting about a quarantine has died.
Shakie Kamara was one of three people seriously injured on Wednesday after security forces fired at protesters, angry after blockades were erected around the West Point slum.
The current outbreak of Ebola is the most deadly ever, killing at least 1,350 people so far.
In other developments:
- In Nigeria, the health minister has announced two new cases of Ebola – spouses of people already infected; five of Nigeria’s 14 cases have died, while another five have recovered and been discharged
- The British doctor named by the UN to co-ordinate the global response to the crisis told the AFP news agency the current outbreak was “either close to a plateau, but then we’ll drop, or we’re in a phase – an inflexion point – where it is going to increase, and I absolutely cannot tell”
- A WHO spokesman has told the BBC that a deadly fever which has killed at least 13 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo was not Ebola, saying it was febrile gastro-enteritis
- An Irishman who died after recently returning from Sierra Leone did not have the Ebola virus, health authorities have confirmed
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)
- Spread via bodily fluids
- Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
- Fatality rate can reach 90% – but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 55%
- Incubation period is two to 21 days
- There is no vaccine or cure
- Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
- Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus’s natural host
Senegal also banned flights and ships from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – the three worst-hit countries.
Dr Seck told the BBC that the countries surrounding those affected were a “sentinel for the world” and had a duty to stop the virus spreading further.
But WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told the BBC’s Newsday programme that the borders in the region were porous, so any ban would be “impossible to enforce”.
“All you end up doing is restricting the kind of legitimate travel which is needed in order to continue to help these countries beat the Ebola outbreak,” he said.
Senegal’s capital, Dakar, is a regional hub for West Africa and many doctors and medical supplies arriving from Europe or the US would pass through there before going to the affected countries.
Mr Hartl said what was needed was more doctors and officials to help trace those infected with Ebola, and more mobile laboratories.
On Thursday, a Russian transport plane carrying a mobile lab and team of specialist medics such as virologists and epidemiologists flew to Guinea’s capital Conakry. The lab can test more than 100 samples daily.
Senegal first closed its border with Guinea in March when the outbreak started.
It was reopened in May after the situation in Guinea seemed to have stabilised but there has been a recent increase in the number of cases in the country.
Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Kenya and South Africa have also imposed travel bans.
Ebola has no known cure but some affected people have recovered after being given an experimental drug, ZMapp, however, supplies are now exhausted.
On Thursday, two US doctors were discharged from hospital after being given the drug, while three Liberian medics are also recovering well.