Senegal Puts 20 People on Watch for Ebola After First Case

Aug 31, 2014 9:27 am ET

(Updates with UN health agency statement in fifth paragraph. For more on Ebola outbreak see {EXT7 <GO>.})

Aug. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Senegal placed 20 people who were exposed to the nation’s first Ebola case under surveillance, including the patient’s family and medical workers, Minister of Health Awa Marie Coll Seck said.

The 21-year-old college student from Guinea came in a six- passenger vehicle across a land border about three weeks ago, Seck said by phone from Dakar, Senegal’s capital, yesterday. The man no longer has a fever and is expected to recover after being treated with antibiotics and hydration solutions, she said. He got sick after the funeral of a relative who died of the disease.

“Our biggest problem is to manage to track down all the persons he has been in touch with since the signs have appeared,” said Seck, a former director of the United Nations program on HIV and AIDS. “We don’t want to miss anyone. The most important moment is now.”

Senegal moved quickly to identify the patient’s contacts and limit the impact after the worst-ever outbreak of the viral disease spread to a fifth country. The World Health Organization said this week that $490 million will be needed to contain the epidemic, which has killed almost as many people as all previous outbreaks combined. Food shortages and closed borders are complicating the World Food Programme’s efforts to feed 1.3 million in the region.

Aid Requested

The Senegalese government has asked for epidemiological support, equipment and hygiene kits, the World Health Organization said in an e-mailed statement today. The case in Senegal is a “top priority emergency,” the agency said.

Scientists are accelerating clinical trials for vaccines and treatments as the outbreak has left more than 1,550 people dead since December in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. A Liberian-American man traveled to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, in July and died of the disease there. Five others have died in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation with about 170 million people.

The Guinean patient in Senegal, whose name has not been released, is related to someone from Sierra Leone who died from Ebola on Aug. 10, Guinea’s Ministry of Health said in a statement handed to reporters yesterday. The patient traveled to the funeral 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Conakry, the capital, the ministry said.

Family Funeral

Five days after the funeral, he traveled to Senegal. The man’s mother and sister died this week of Ebola and two of his brothers have tested positive for the disease, the Guinean ministry said. He had helped care for sick family members. Senegal’s Seck said that the man initially denied he had been exposed to Ebola when he went to Dakar’s main Fann Hospital this week.

Scientists have been trying to speed up research into potential Ebola treatments. France’s state health institute is in talks with Guinea to start the first drug trials using infected people there, while the U.S. National Institutes of Health will begin enrolling patients next week in an early-stage trial of GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s experimental vaccine.

Monkeys with Ebola survived after being treated with Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc.’s experimental drug, according to results published in the journal Nature. The drug had been given to two infected Americans who then recovered from Ebola, though it’s not known whether or how much the treatment helped them.