Ebola outbreak: Nigeria closes all schools until October

Children at a school in Maiduguri, Nigeria - May 2014 Children in Nigeria will be away from school for a further six weeks

All schools in Nigeria have been ordered to remain shut until 13 October as part of measures to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

The new academic year was due to start on Monday.

But the education minister ordered the closures to allow staff to be trained on how to handle suspected Ebola cases.

Five people have died of Ebola in Nigeria. The West Africa outbreak has centred on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, killing more than 1,400 people.

It is the largest ever outbreak and has infected an estimated 2,615 people. About half of those infected have died.

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Nigerian voices: Ali Sadiq, public servant based in Abuja

"The postponement of the schools' resumption by the federal government is a good move but the extension is too long. I can't imagine my two kids wasting six more weeks at home. Two to three weeks would have been enough for all that."

Mixed reaction to Nigeria schools closure

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It spread to Nigeria - Africa's most populous country - in July, when a man infected with Ebola flew from Liberia to Lagos.

The head of the African Development Bank (AFDB), Donald Kaberuka, has called on airline companies to restart their services to the worst-affected countries.

Several African countries and airlines have banned flights to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone despite World Health Organization (WHO) advice that travel bans do not work.

Nurses wearing protective suits escort a man infected with the Ebola virus to a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia - 25 August 2014 The outbreak has overwhelmed struggling health systems in some of the world's poorest countries

Air France has now announced it is suspending flights to Sierra Leone from Thursday, following a request by the French government.

The virus is not airborne and is spread between humans through direct contact with infected bodily fluids.

"It is very important that as you combat Ebola, we also continue to ensure that ordinary economic activity is not disputed," Mr Kaberuka told BBC Africa on a visit to Sierra Leone.

Start Quote

There are many other diseases right now not being attended to because Ebola has overstretched the capacity of the health sector”

End Quote Donald Kaberuka AFDB president
'Cataclysmic'

The Nigerian government says it hopes its efforts to contain the virus are working, as there is only one confirmed case of Ebola remaining.

"All state ministries of education are to immediately organise and ensure that at least two staff in each school, both private and public, are trained by appropriate health workers," said Education Minister Ibrahim Shekarau.

Mr Kaberuka said the AFDB had signed an agreement with the WHO to quickly release $60m (£36m) of funds to help with the immediate fight against Ebola.

He described the situation as "cataclysmic" as many health workers were being infected with Ebola.

The current outbreak is the deadliest since Ebola was discovered in 1976

"It is decimating the health sector," he said.

"There are many other diseases right now not being attended to because Ebola has overstretched the capacity of the health sector."

On Tuesday, the WHO said the "unprecedented" number of doctors and nurses infected was due to a shortage of protective equipment and staff.

Only one or two doctors are available for 100,000 patients in some of the affected countries.

The bank chief said after the Ebola emergency was over, it was important that these countries health systems were strengthened, which the AFDB could do through budget support.

A convoy of rescue vehicles passes the main entrance of the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf in Hamburg, Germany, 27 August 2014 A Senegalese epidemiologist has been flown to Hamburg from Sierra Leone for treatment

Meanwhile, a WHO epidemiologist from Senegal who contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone has been flown to Hamburg in Germany for treatment.

He had been working at an Ebola testing centre in Kailahun, one of the worst-affected districts in eastern Sierra Leone which is currently under blockade.

The WHO says the laboratory in Kailahun has been temporarily closed.

There have been 392 Ebola deaths in Sierra Leone, according to the latest UN figures released on 22 August.

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Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)
A fruit bat is pictured in 2010 at the Amneville zoo in France. Fruit bats are believed to be a major carrier of the Ebola virus but do not show symptoms
  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% - but current outbreak has mortality rate of 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, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus's natural host
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