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Rare Good News Regarding 5 Ebola Patients In Nigeria


We are reporting this morning on some rare good news about the Ebola virus outbreak in Africa. It has not so far become a widespread epidemic in Nigeria as some had feared. Five patients in that country have even been released from the hospital out of 12 confirmed cases. Four patients have died from the virus. Most were health workers who came into contact with a sick airplane passenger from Liberia. To find out more about the outbreak in Nigeria, we reach a journalist Yinka Ibukun in Lagos, which is the largest city in Africa. Thanks for coming back on the program.

YINKA IBUKUN: Thank you, David.

GREENE: So what do we know about the people who have now survived this virus?

IBUKUN: So we don't know that much about those who have survived. But we're assuming they were essentially health workers who took care of the first case of Ebola in Nigeria.

GREENE: OK, so it seems like some health workers who took care of that airplane passenger survived, some did not. Those who survived, do we know what kind of treatment they got? Did they get special drugs, or was this standard Ebola care?

IBUKUN: No. Nobody in Nigeria has gotten any experimental drug so far. You know that Ebola has no official cure. But everyone who has survived in Nigeria would have survived thanks to the supportive care that they've gotten.

GREENE: Yinka, can you just tell us about the emotion in Nigeria right now? How much relief is there that this has not spread? There were fears that this could spread so quickly in such a big city like Lagos. I mean, it's so huge, so dense - 21 million people.

IBUKUN: Yes, there's a lot of relief. There's relief that it seems like it's not spreading because so far all the cases can be traced back to the initial Ebola patient that arrived in Nigeria last month. There's also relief that there are survivors because that's a big issue, the fact that there was a sense that if you had Ebola, it was a death sentence. So there's a lot of relief that you can survive Ebola.

GREENE: You say so far - I know there was a very important calendar with this virus, that when you knew that someone might have come in contact with someone with the disease, there was a 21 day period where you had to keep an eye on that person. Have we reached a point where we think this is really contained, or are health workers still concerned that this could spread?

IBUKUN: Health workers are still concerned. But basically the calendar, as you said, starts with the 21 days. So the first case died on July 25. And then after that 21 days, that's when all the primary cases will have developed symptoms. Those 21 days have elapsed and we've only had 12 confirmed cases. So now we have to wait another 21 days to make sure that none of the people who contracted the disease from the first case infected anyone else.

GREENE: If this does becomes a wider crisis, one concern in Nigeria is that this is happening when there's a doctors' strike underway. I know the president has even fired some doctors who were striking. That does not sound like good timing at all.

IBUKUN: No it does not bode well for containing the disease. So far the government has said they have the funds to take care of people. So for now, they don't seem strained. But if this was to become bigger than it is now, then yes, there would be cause for worry, especially with the doctor strike.

GREENE: But fortunately, it sounds like this doctors' strike is not the problem some thought because the crisis has not grown as much as people feared.

IBUKUN: Exactly. For now, the doctors' strike hasn't had a significant impact on the efforts to take care of Ebola patients.

GREENE: All right, we've been speaking to journalist Yinka Ibukun in Lagos, Nigeria. A country where there has been some rare good news so far in the Ebola outbreak. Yinka, thanks very much.

IBUKUN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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