A resident of the West Point neighbourhood, which has been
quarantined following an outbreak of Ebola, receives food
rations from the United Nations World Food Programme in
Monrovia, Liberia. REUTERS/2Tango
The West African state of Senegal has become the fifth
country to be touched by the world's worst Ebola outbreak,
while riots have broken out in neighbouring Guinea's remote
southeast where infection rates are rising fast.
In the latest sign that the outbreak of the virus, which has
already killed at least 1,550 people, is spinning out of
control, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that Ebola
cases rose last week at the fastest pace since the epidemic
began in West Africa in March.
The epidemic has defied efforts by governments to control it,
prompting the leading charity fighting the outbreak, Medicins
Sans Frontieres, to call for the U.N. Security Council to
take charge of efforts to stop it.
Including the fatalities, more than 3,000 have been infected
since the virus was detected in the remote jungles of
southeastern Guinea in March, and quickly spread across the
border to Liberia and Sierra Leone. It has also touched
Nigeria where six people have died.
Senegal's first case is a student from Guinea.
Senegalese Health Minister Awa Marie Coll Seck said the man
turned up for treatment at a hospital in the capital Dakar on
Tuesday, concealing the fact that he had had close contact
with victims in his home country. Tests at the Pasteur
Institute in Dakar showed he had the disease.
"We are tracing his whole itinerary and also identifying
anyone who had contact with the patient, who now that he has
been diagnosed is much more cooperative and supplied all the
necessary information," the minister said.
A Health Ministry official, who asked not to be named, said
that the 21-year-old crossed into Senegal via its southern
border with Guinea and had been living in the densely
populated Dakar suburb of Parcelles Assainies for three
weeks. He added that the man appeared to have a good chance
The man had been under surveillance by health authorities in
Guinea because of his contact with Ebola victims but escaped
to Senegal, Seck said.
Residents in Dakar reacted with anger and concern. "When you
are sick, why do you leave your own country to export the
disease to another?" asked radio host Taib Soce on RFM, a
popular station owned by Senegalese music star Youssou
In an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus, Senegal
last week banned flights to and from three of the affected
countries and shut its land border with Guinea.
The country, a regional hub for U.N. agencies and aid groups,
has also refused to give clearance for U.N. aid flights to
Ebola-hit countries in a move that humanitarian workers say
is hampering their ability to respond to the epidemic.
The director of the United States Centers for Disease Control
(CDC) warned on Friday of a "catastrophe" if emergency action
were not taken immediately to reverse the trend of rising
"There is time to avoid a catastrophe but only if immediate
and urgent action is taken at every level," Tom Frieden said
in the Sierra Leone capital Freetown.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday that the
actual number of Ebola cases could be up to four times higher
than reported and said 20,000 people in total could be
infected before the outbreak ends.
In the remote southeastern Guinean city of Nzerekore, riots
broke out on Thursday night over rumours that health workers
had infected people with Ebola, a Red Cross official and
The government of Guinea says it has the epidemic under
control, but the number of cases has flared up in southern
Guinea, a trend the government blames on people spilling over
the borders from Liberia and Sierra Leone.
A crowd of young men, some armed with clubs and knives, set
up barricades across Nzerekore on Thursday and threatened to
attack the hospital before security forces moved in to
restore order. Gunshots were fired and several people were
injured, said Youssouf Traore, president of the Guinean Red
"A rumour, which was totally false, spread that we had
sprayed the market in order to transmit the virus to locals,"
Traore said. "People revolted and resorted to violence,
prompting soldiers to intervene."
Local Red Cross workers had to flee to the military camp with
their medical equipment. Another resident said the security
forces were preventing people leaving their neighbourhoods
overnight. More than 400 people have died in Guinea, though
the infection rate is slower than in Liberia and Sierra
The WHO, on Thursday, unveiled a $490 million road map to
bring the outbreak under control over the next nine months.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said it may give
more support to affected countries. "We're working on a
financing package subject to the approval of the IMF
Executive Board to help Liberia along with Guinea and Sierra
Leone mitigate any socio-economic impacts of the epidemic,"
IMF Liberia representative Charles Amo-Yartey said on Friday.
Scientists reported on Friday that in tests the experimental
Ebola drug ZMapp had cured all 18 lab monkeys infected with
In Freetown, a new WHO-backed mobile laboratory opened this
week, speeding up the time needed to test suspected cases.
But often financial pledges have not translated into more
clinics and staff on the ground, said Jorge Castilla,
epidemiologist with the European Commission's Humanitarian
Aid and Civil Protection Department.
"I've seen many declarations, I see treatment centres on the
maps but I know they are not working," he said in an
interview after a trip to the affected countries.
Suspicion of healthcare workers has dogged government
responses to the Ebola outbreak across West Africa.
Frightened by the sight of healthcare workers clad from head
to toe in plastic protective gear and wearing protective
masks, many locals have shunned their assistance, often
preferring to die in their own homes.
So far, more than 120 healthcare workers have died in the
epidemic. Liberia reported five new cases of infection among
them in a single day this week.