Ebola crisis: Senegal defends Guinea border closure

A Nigerian port health official uses a thermometer on a worker at the arrivals hall of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. Airports around the world are screening West African passengers to see if they have a fever

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.

Also on Friday, the WHO said 142 new cases of the disease had been reported since 19 August, as well as 77 deaths.

It said the crisis would take "several months" to combat. The current Ebola outbreak has killed at least 1,350 people - more than any other.

Meanwhile in Liberia, a boy of 16 shot during a protest about a quarantine has died.

Shakie Kamara was one of three people injured on Wednesday, when security forces fired on a crowd protesting against blockades around the West Point slum.

Security forces erect blockade around West Point West Point residents say they need to leave the slum to buy food and go to work

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
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WHO says Ebola outbreak underestimated because:
  • Many families keep sick people at home, as there is no cure
  • Many health centres have closed because medical staff have fled
  • In Liberia, treatment centres are overwhelmed
  • The existence of "shadow-zones", areas where there are reports of Ebola but which cannot be accessed because of local resistance or lack of staff

Read more from the WHO

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Senegal's Health Minister Dr Awa Marie Colle Seck told the BBC the travel ban would not affect humanitarian flights, and that the WHO was "learning, like everybody [else]".

Senegal also banned flights and ships from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - the three worst-hit countries - however, Dr Seck said humanitarian flights would not be affected.

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.

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".

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Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)
A fruit bat is pictured in 2010 at the Amneville zoo in France. Fruit bats are believed to be a major carrier of the Ebola virus but do not show symptoms
  • 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
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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.

The current outbreak is the deadliest since Ebola was discovered in 1976

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.

Ebola deaths

Up to 18-21 December

7,580

Deaths - probable, confirmed and suspected

(Includes one in the US and six in Mali)

  • 3,376 Liberia

  • 2,582 Sierra Leone

  • 1,607 Guinea

  • 8 Nigeria

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