ABUJA, Nigeria — The doctor who treated a man who flew to Nigeria and died of Ebola now has contracted the disease, authorities said Monday, presenting a dire challenge to Africa's most populous nation as the regional toll for the outbreak grew to 887 dead.
Nigerian health authorities rushed to quarantine others who had been exposed to the doctor who treated Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American man who died July 25, days after arriving in Nigeria from Liberia, said Nigerian Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu.
Three others who also treated Sawyer now show symptoms of Ebola and their test results are pending, he said. Authorities are trying to trace and quarantine others in Lagos, sub-Saharan Africa's largest city of 21 million people.
"This cluster of cases in Lagos, Nigeria is very concerning," said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention, which is dispatching 50 experienced disease control specialists to West Africa. "It shows what happens if meticulous infection control, contact tracing, and proper isolation of patients with suspected Ebola is not done. Stopping the spread in Lagos will be difficult but it can be done," he said.
The World Health Organization announced Monday that the death toll has increased from 729 to 887 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.
Cases in Liberia jumped from 156 to 255, WHO said, as the government ordered that all Ebola victims must now be cremated because of rising opposition to burials in neighborhoods around the capital.
The emergence of a second case in Nigeria raises serious concerns about the infection control practices there.
"This fits exactly with the pattern that we've seen in the past. Either someone gets sick and infects their relatives, or goes to a hospital and health workers get sick," said Gregory Hartl, World Health Organization spokesman in Geneva.