Nigeria Starts Screening for Ebola at Airports

Medical staff working with Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) prepare to bring food to patients kept in an isolation area at the MSF Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun July 20, 2014. Tommy Trenchar/Reuters

LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigeria's civil aviation authority (NCAA) said on Thursday it had started temperature screening passengers arriving from places at risk from Ebola and had suspended pan-African airline Asky for bringing the first case to Lagos.

Ebola has been blamed for 729 deaths in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, according to the World Health Organization. One died in Lagos, a crowded city of 21 million people with some of Africa's worst sanitation and health care.

"Screening and monitoring is being done at all major international airports. It entails checking passengers' temperatures with a hand-held machine," NCAA spokesman Sam Adurogboye said, adding this meant for any journey that passed through Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone.

A compulsory blood test would follow if the passenger's temperature gave cause for concern, he said.

International airlines association IATA said the WHO was not recommending any travel restrictions or border closures due to the outbreak, and says there would be a low risk to other passengers if an Ebola patient flew.

Patrick Sawyer, a consultant for Liberia's Finance Ministry in his 40s, collapsed on arrival at Lagos airport on July 20 on an Asky flight. He was put in isolation at the First Consultants Hospital in Obalende, one of the most crowded parts of the city, but died early on July 25.

"We have suspended Asky until they are able to show us what measures they have put in place for passengers to ensure they do not bring Ebola," Adurogboye said.

He said the largest Airline Arik Air was being told to maintain its self-imposed suspension of all flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone for the time being.

Authorities were monitoring 59 people who were in contact with Sawyer, including airport contacts, and are seeking to make contact with all passengers that were on his flight.

The latest outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever began in the forests of remote eastern Guinea in February. It starts with headaches and fever, and final stage symptoms include external and internal bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea.

Sierra Leone declared a state of emergency and called in troops to quarantine epicenters of Ebola on Thursday.

Join the Discussion