Ebola Hits Fifth Country as Sierra Leone Health Minister Fired

Aug 29, 2014 8:00 pm ET

(For more on Ebola outbreak see {EXT7 <GO>.})

Aug. 30 (Bloomberg) -- West Africa’s Ebola outbreak spread to a fifth country as a Guinean man tested positive for the virus in Senegal, a setback in efforts to contain the worst epidemic of the illness on record.

In Sierra Leone, Miatta Kargbo, the country’s health minister and coordinator in the fight against the disease that has claimed 422 deaths there, will be replaced by Abu Bakarr Fofanah, the presidential office said yesterday in a statement. The move is part of an effort to make the response to the Ebola outbreak “more efficient and effective,” according to the statement.

The Senegal patient, a 21-year-old man, is in quarantine at Fann Hospital in the Senegalese capital Dakar, Minister of Health Awa Marie Coll Seck said yesterday. The man was on vacation in Senegal, the minister said. Dakar is about 435 miles (701 kilometers) from Conakry, Guinea’s capital.

“He concealed the fact that he had contact in Guinea with victims of the disease,” the minister said. “To date, the state of health of the patient is satisfactory. It should be noted that the monitoring and response to Ebola virus has been strengthened and all means are implemented to prevent the spread of the disease from this imported case.”

Senegal’s case comes the same week that the World Health Organization published its $490 million road map for ending the epidemic, which has sickened 3,069 people and killed 1,552. The WHO’s plan seeks to stop transmission of the virus in six to nine months. More than 20,000 people may be infected before that happens, the United Nations health agency said.

Improving Condition

The Guinean patient’s health has improved since he was admitted, Mbaye Diouf, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said by phone yesterday. The Ebola test was conducted Aug. 26 and the results came back positive today, he said.

The virus is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person. It causes fever, diarrhea, muscle pain, vomiting and as it progresses can lead to bleeding from the eyes, ears and nose.

The outbreak began in Guinea, spread to neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia and also has cropped up in Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country. Senegal closed its border with Guinea this month to prevent Ebola infections, slowing trade between the two countries. Six people have died in Nigeria, where the first case was a Liberian man who flew into Lagos, the country’s largest city.

The World Food Programme said it needs about $70 million to finance emergency aid to about 1.3 million people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Food shortages in Guinea have forced the UN food agency to stop providing aid in Guinea.

Senegal has a population of about 13 million people and also borders the Gambia, Mauritania, Mali and Guinea Bissau. Its $15 billion economy is driven by exports of commodities, fish meal and groundnuts, according to the United Nations. Gross domestic product will probably expand 4.9 percent this year, faster than the 3.5 percent pace last year, the International Monetary Fund said in July.

--With assistance from Silas Gbandia in Freetown, Sierra Leone.