Briton in Sierra Leone has contracted Ebola

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FREETOWN, Si­erra Leone — A Brit­ish na­tional liv­ing in Si­erra Leone has tested pos­i­tive for Ebola, the first Bri­ton to fall vic­tim to the deadly dis­ease that has spread across the West African re­gion since March, of­fi­cials said Satur­day.

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion es­ti­mates that the cur­rent Ebola ep­i­demic — the world's worst ever with 1,427 doc­u­mented deaths — will likely take six to nine months to halt.

Some aid or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing med­i­cal char­ity Doc­tors With­out Borders, have warned that the out­break, which be­gan in Guinea be­fore spread­ing to Si­erra Leone, Libe­ria and Ni­ge­ria, is now out of con­trol.

The WHO con­ceded on Fri­day that the hid­ing of vic­tims and the ex­is­tence of “shadow zones” where med­ics can­not go has con­cealed the true scale of the ep­i­demic.

Brit­ain's dep­uty chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer, John Wat­son, con­firmed that a Brit­ish na­tional was among those suf­fer­ing from Ebola and said med­i­cal ex­perts were as­sess­ing the sit­u­a­tion in Si­erra Leone to en­sure ap­pro­pri­ate care was pro­vided.

No fur­ther de­tails about the Brit­ish na­tional were im­me­di­ately avail­able, and it was not known whether there were plans to evac­u­ate the pa­tient.

Ebola, which is passed on by di­rect con­tact with the bod­ily flu­ids of in­fected per­sons, strikes hard­est at health­care pro­vid­ers and care­giv­ers who work closely with those in­fected. And doz­ens of lo­cal doc­tors and nurses have died from the vi­rus in re­cent months.

Two Amer­i­can aid work­ers, who con­tracted Ebola in neigh­bor­ing Libe­ria and were then evac­u­ated, re­cov­ered from the dis­ease and were re­leased from a hos­pi­tal in the United States late last week.

Fear, stigma and de­nial have led many fam­i­lies to hide their in­fected loved ones from health of­fi­cials. In other in­stances, pa­tients have been forc­i­bly re­moved from treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties and iso­la­tion cen­ters, cre­at­ing the risk of the dis­ease's fur­ther spread.

Under-re­port­ing of Ebola cases has been a prob­lem par­tic­u­larly in Libe­ria and Si­erra Leone, cur­rently the two coun­tries hard­est hit by the vi­rus.

Law­mak­ers in Si­erra Leone on Fri­day voted over­whelm­ingly in fa­vor of mak­ing the har­bor­ing of those in­fected with Ebola a crime car­ry­ing a pun­ish­ment of two years in prison.

“The new reg­u­la­tion will pro­vide for sum­mary trial, mean­ing trial by a mag­is­trate court alone,” Justice Min­is­ter Frank Kargbo said.

Two alarm­ing new cases of Ebola have emerged in Ni­ge­ria, wid­en­ing the cir­cle of peo­ple sick­ened be­yond the im­me­di­ate group of care­giv­ers who treated a dy­ing air­line pas­sen­ger in one of Africa’s larg­est cit­ies.

The two new cases in Ni­ge­ria were in­fected by their spouses, both med­i­cal work­ers who had di­rect con­tact with Libe­rian-Amer­i­can Patrick Saw­yer, who flew into Ni­ge­ria from Libe­ria and Togo and in­fected 11 oth­ers be­fore he died in July. The male and fe­male care­giv­ers also then died of Ebola, Ni­ge­rian Health Min­is­ter On­yebuchi Chukwu said Fri­day.

Ni­ge­rian of­fi­cials ini­tially claimed the risk of ex­po­sure to oth­ers was min­i­mal be­cause Mr. Saw­yer was whisked into iso­la­tion af­ter ar­riv­ing at the air­port. Lagos state health com­mis­sioner Jide Idris later ac­knowl­edged that Mr. Saw­yer was not im­me­di­ately quar­an­tined.

The two new cases were quar­an­tined a few days ago while be­ing tested, Mr. Chukwu said. They had pre­vi­ously been un­der sur­veil­lance, mean­ing they were con­tacted daily to see if they de­vel­oped any symp­toms, but their move­ments were not re­stricted. Once they showed signs of the dis­ease, they were brought in.


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