Ebola outbreak: Ivory Coast bans flight from three states

A Nigerian health official uses a thermometer on a worker at the arrivals hall of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, 6 August 2014 Image copyright AP
Image caption Health checks have been stepped up at airports across West Africa

Ivory Coast has banned all passenger flights from three countries hit by Ebola in an attempt to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

It is the only country, after Saudi Arabia, to impose such a ban, amid mounting concern about the outbreak which has killed nearly 1,000 people.

The ban covers Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which are worst affected by Ebola, Ivorian officials said.

It excludes Nigeria, where a tenth Ebola case has been confirmed.

There is no cure for Ebola, which has infected at least 1,779 people since the outbreak was first reported in Guinea in February.

Initial flu-like symptoms can lead to external haemorrhaging from areas like eyes and gums, and internal bleeding which can lead to organ failure; patients have a better chance of survival if they receive early treatment.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it a global health emergency and is hosting a meeting of medical experts in Geneva to discuss the ethics of using experimental drugs on patients.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Spanish priest who was infected with Ebola in Liberia was flown home for treatment

A Roman Catholic priest, infected with Ebola in Liberia, is being treated with the experimental drug, Zmapp, in a hospital in Madrid.

The drug has also been used in the US on two aid workers who are said to have shown signs of improvement.

Analysis: Will Ross, BBC News, Lagos

Nigeria has been an example of how controversial a clinical trial can become. In 1996 the US-based pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, carried out a drug trial during a meningitis outbreak in which about 12,000 people died from the disease in the northern state of Kano over six months.

Pfizer gave 100 children an experimental oral antibiotic called Trovan which it said had already been tested on more than 5,000 patients. Pfizer was sued by the government as well as by affected families after 11 children died and dozens were left disabled during the trial - some with brain damage.

The firm argued that meningitis had harmed the children and not the drug. But after lengthy legal battles a multi-million dollar settlement was made with Kano state and in 2011 four families received the first compensation payments.

One key difference between this Ebola outbreak and the 1996 case is that when Pfizer conducted the Trovan trials another meningitis drug was already widely used.

A trial gone wrong can have long-term effects: it is no coincidence that northern Nigeria is one of the few areas in the world where polio remains endemic as the Trovan trial added to suspicion of Western medicine.

The Ivorian government said in a statement that it had forbidden all "carriers from transporting passengers" from countries grappling with the outbreak, the AFP news agency reports.

The statement did not name the countries, but a health ministry official confirmed to the BBC that it covered Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - not Nigeria.

Ivory Coast borders Liberia and Guinea to the west.

Preventive measures at the international airport in Ivory Coast's main city, Abidjan, would be stepped up and "all passengers on arrival will have to have their temperatures taken with an infrared thermometer", the AFP news agency reports.

Nigeria's Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said a nurse was the latest person to be diagnosed with Ebola in Africa's most populous state.

She contracted the virus from Liberian government employee Patrick Sawyer, who died of Ebola in Nigeria last month.

British Airways, Pan-African airline Asky and Nigeria's Arik Air have suspended flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone and Emirates Airlines has suspended flights to Guinea.

Saudi Arabia's travel ban is aimed at preventing Liberians, Sierra Leoneans and Guineans from visiting Islam's holy sites until the virus is contained.

Ebola virus disease (EVD)

Image copyright Science Photo Library
  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% - but the current outbreak is 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 are considered to be virus' natural host

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