Ebola crisis: Nigerian medics deploying to Sierra Leone

Volunteer Nigerian health workers on a mission to fight the Ebola virus in affected West African countries Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Nigerians are part of an African Union promise to send 1,000 medical workers to Ebola-hit areas

About 100 Nigerian medical workers are expected to arrive in Sierra Leone to help with the response to the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

The workers, who include doctors, scientists and hygienists, have been trained by the medical aid agency, MSF.

It came a day after residents in the Guinean capital, Conakry, protested about the construction of an Ebola treatment clinic in their district.

The Ebola outbreak has killed more than 6,000 people in West Africa this year.

The Nigerian medical workers are the first part of a contingent of about 250 specialists the West African country is deploying to the three countries worst hit by Ebola - Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

The workers are expected to stay for between three and six months, Nigerian officials say.

The BBC international development correspondent, Mark Doyle, says it is a reminder that although richer countries and the big aid agencies have been giving crucial help, Africans are very much part of the fight against Ebola too.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption According to the World Health Organization, Ebola transmission remains intense in Sierra Leone

The Nigerian commitment is part of an African Union promise to send 1,000 medical workers to Ebola-hit areas by the end of this year.

Malaria warning

The deployments come amid a UN warning that people infected with malaria in Sierra Leone are sometimes not seeking care for fear of being shunned as suspected Ebola cases.

Medical experts say the symptoms of both diseases can be similar in their early stages and there are also fears that some people are being referred unnecessarily to Ebola treatment centres.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption There are sanitary checkpoints in Sierra Leone where temperatures are checked and people wash their hands

The UN agency, Unicef, has said it will supply anti-malarial drugs to about 2.4 million people in Sierra Leone.

Under the programme, thousands of community health workers will go door-to-door in districts where the risk of Ebola is highest to administer anti-malarial tablets to everyone aged six months and above.

"This campaign will benefit the fight against both malaria and Ebola," said Unicef local representative Roeland Monasch, by reducing cases of malaria, easing the strain on the health system and allowing true cases of Ebola to be treated.

Ebola virus disease (EVD)

Image copyright SPL
  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% - but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 70%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no proven 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

On Thursday, people in the Yimbaya district of the Guinean capital, Conakry, staged protests about the construction of an Ebola treatment centre, fearing it may spread disease in their neighbourhood.

The project is being funded by the French government, which has said it will help fight Ebola in Conakry and benefit local residents.

Similar protests took place two months ago in another district, Kaporo Rail, where the centre had been initially planned to be built.

Meanwhile, a clinic in the German city of Frankfurt said a Ugandan doctor it had treated for Ebola was free of the disease and had been released last month.

The doctor, who had been working in Sierra Leone, had undergone seven weeks of intensive treatment in an isolation ward.

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