LAGOS (Reuters) - A South African woman who was quarantined overnight in Nigeria as a suspected Ebola case has tested negative for the disease and will be allowed to return home, a U.S. disease expert assisting Nigerian health authorities said on Friday.
The traveler, who had flown in to Lagos via Morocco on Thursday, was held overnight in an Ebola treatment center for tests after she acknowledged suffering Ebola-like symptoms after working in Guinea and Sierra Leone since April.
The two countries, along with Liberia, are the worst affected by the largest outbreak of the deadly hemorrhagic virus to date, which has killed more than 2,400 people so far, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The epidemic has also reached Nigeria and Senegal because of sick travelers “importing” the disease, prompting governments across Africa and the world to intensify health screening. Democratic Republic of Congo has a separate outbreak.
Dr. Aileen Marty, professor of infectious diseases at Florida International University College of Medicine, told Reuters the South African patient was treated for amoebic dysentery, which produced the symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting she had displayed on her arrival at Lagos airport.
“She is negative (for Ebola),” said Marty, who is in Lagos assisting Nigeria with its Ebola screening under WHO auspices.
The traveler, whose identity was not given, would be allowed to return to South Africa on the first available flight, she said.
The Ebola test was carried out by Nigerian medics and Dr. Cesar Munoz-Fontela of the Hamburg-based Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, which has set up testing labs both in Lagos and in the southern oil city of Port Harcourt.
Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria has instituted Ebola screening, including infra-red temperature scans and symptoms checks, at its airports and ports after a Liberian-American infected with the disease brought it to Lagos in July after flying from Liberia. His is one of seven deaths recorded so far out of 19 confirmed cases in Nigeria.
Ebola screening will also be carried out on thousands of Nigerian pilgrims leaving in coming days for the annual haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has barred pilgrims from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea but is allowing Nigerians.
Reporting by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall