DFA: Pinoy being tested for Ebola in Togo

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

MANILA -- A Filipino seafarer has been tested and monitored for the Ebola virus in Togo, West Africa, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed Friday night.

DFA Assistant Secretary Charles Jose said in a text message to reporters Friday that the Philippine Embassy in Nigeria is awaiting results of the tests conducted on the Filipino.

The embassy, he added, is closely coordinating with the government of Togo on the report.

The Ebola virus has killed more than 1,300 this year, and the World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned that the scale of the outbreak has been underestimated especially in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and that many people with Ebola symptoms have not been identified.

On Friday, 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.

The two new cases are spouses of medical workers 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. The male and female caregivers both subsequently died of Ebola, after infecting their spouses, 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 Jide Idris later acknowledged that Sawyer was not immediately quarantined when he arrived because doctors didn't suspect Ebola.

The two new cases were quarantined two days ago while being tested for the virus, Chukwu said. They had previously been under surveillance but were brought in when they developed Ebola symptoms.

A total of 213 people are under surveillance in Nigeria as part of efforts to monitor anyone who may have been exposed to Ebola, Chukwu said. These include six people in the southeastern state of Enugu, he said.

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.

New treatment centers in Liberia were overwhelmed as soon as they opened over the past two weeks by patients that were not previously identified.

In a situation assessment issued Friday, the WHO said this had "never before been seen in an Ebola outbreak," adding that it suggested "an invisible caseload of patients" going undetected by the government's surveillance measures.

In the Philippines, strict measures have been implemented to prevent the entry of possible Ebola virus carriers. The country remains Ebola-free, said the DOH. (Sunnex/With AP)

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