By Francis Kokutse, Accra, July 26 IANS | 4 months ago

Nigeria has become the fourth country in the West African region to record a death from the deadly Ebola disease, the country's Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu has confirmed.

The victim was a 40-year-old Liberian national, who arrived in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, but was admitted to a medical facility last Sunday after he reported ill showing symptoms of the disease.

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra have already reported about 1,093 cases with 660 deaths as of July 20.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. It said outbreaks occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa near tropical rain forests and it is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.

Following the severe outbreak of the disease in the West Africa region, leaders of the regional grouping, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), early this month decided to set up a disease control centre in the Guinean capital, Conakry, to help fight the spread of the disease in the next six months.

Luis Sambo, the Africa Regional director of WHO, said funding for the centre was expected to come from the Africa Public Health Emergency Fund and other donors.

Among other factors that have impeded the fight to contain the disease has been the lack of human resources. Sambo said African governments needed to improve the capacity building of their research institutions.

"Research in Africa is weak and more research must be directed in order to align it with the developmental agenda of problems that we face on the continent," he added.

With the spread of the disease in the region, there have been some calls for the closure of borders but Keiji Fukuda, deputy director general of the WHO, said his organisation had decided against this move because it was not an effective way of dealing with it.

"When you close borders, you create anxiety and it affects economies," Fukuda said.

Ebola first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks in Nzara, Sudan, and in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter appeared in a village situated near the Ebola river, from which the disease takes its name.

(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at fkokutse@gmail.com)

(Posted on 26-07-2014)

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