A Liberian man who died in quarantine in Lagos was suffering from the deadly virus Ebola, Nigerian officials said Friday, confirming that the worst-ever outbreak of the virus has reached Africa's most populous country.
The 40-year-old Monrovia resident arrived in Nigeria's mega-city on Sunday and was admitted to the hospital after suffering from severe vomiting and diarrhea.
He was placed in isolation because his symptoms were associated with the virus, which has killed more than 650 people across West Africa in recent months, the worst-ever outbreak since Ebola first emerged in 1976.
"The Liberian man has died," said a source with the Lagos state health ministry who requested anonymity.
The patient's blood samples were sent to a lab in Lagos and the World Health Organization (WHO) in Dakar. Lagos officials made the official diagnosis after the results came back.
Liberia has recorded 172 cases of the disease, including 105 deaths, since the outbreak began.
Yewande Adeshina, special adviser on health for the Lagos government, said "the immediate concern was not to create panic."
She said an emergency response has been rolled out, including efforts to find "those who might have had direct contact with the man in order to prevent the risks of infection."
However, she declined to comment on what type of infection they were trying to prevent.
Lagos, a severely congested city of more than 20 million people, has terrible sanitation and a weak healthcare system.
Sierra Leone officials, meanwhile, appealed for help on Friday to trace the first known resident in the capital with Ebola whose family forcibly removed her from a Freetown hospital after testing positive for the deadly disease.
Radio stations in Freetown, a city of around 1 million inhabitants, broadcast the appeal on Friday to locate a woman who tested positive for the disease that has killed 660 people across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since an outbreak was first identified in February.
"Saudatu Koroma of 25 Old Railway Line, Brima Lane, Wellington," the announcement said. "She is a positive case and her being out there is a risk to all. We need the public to help us locate her."
Koroma, 32, a resident of the densely populated Wellington neighborhood, had been admitted to an isolation ward while blood samples were tested for the virus, Health ministry spokesman Sidi Yahya Tunis. The results came back on Thursday.
"The family of the patient stormed the hospital and forcefully removed her and took her away," Tunis said. "We are searching for her." Fighting one of the world's deadliest diseases is straining the region's weak health systems, while a lack of information and suspicion of medical staff has led many to shun treatment.
Earlier this year, a man in Freetown tested positive for Ebola although he is believed to have caught it elsewhere. According to health ministry data, dozens of people confirmed by laboratory tests to have Ebola are now unaccounted for in Sierra Leone, where the majority of cases have been recorded in the country's east.
While international medical organizations have deployed experts to the field in an attempt to contain the outbreak, the WHO said poor health infrastructure and a lack of manpower were hindering their efforts.
"We're seeing many of these facilities simply don't have enough people to provide the constant level of care needed," WHO spokesman Paul Garwood told a news briefing in Geneva on Friday.
Cases have already been confirmed in Conakry and Monrovia, the capital cities of Guinea and Liberia.
Experts say that limiting the spread of the virus in a chaotic mega-city poses added complications compared to infections in more rural areas.
Ebola is believed to be carried by animals hunted for meat, notably bats. It spreads among humans via bodily fluids, including sweat, meaning you can get sick from simply touching an infected person.
There is no cure or vaccine for Ebola, which causes diarrhea, vomiting and internal and external bleeding. It can kill up to 90 percent of those infected, although the mortality rate of the current outbreak is around 60 percent.
With no vaccine, patients believed to have caught the virus must be isolated to prevent further contagion.