DFA: Pinoy in Togo has Ebola-like symptoms

Posted at 08/22/14 9:20 PM

MANILA (UPDATED) - A Filipino seafarer in Togo has been tested for the Ebola virus after he showed symptoms of the illness, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Friday.

Test results are still being awaited for the Filipino, who has yet to be identified, DFA Assistant Secretary Charles Jose said in a text message.

He said the Philippine embassy in Nigeria is closely coordinating with the Togo government on the issue.

A senior health official in Togo said earlier on Thursday that two suspected Ebola cases, including a seafarer from the Philippines, were being tested for the virus.

This, as the United Nations' new pointman on Ebola said Friday he was preparing for a possible flareup of the epidemic in West Africa.

"We're either close to a plateau, but then we'll drop, or we're in a phase, an inflection point, where it is going to increase, and I absolutely cannot tell," David Nabarro told Agence France-Presse.

He was determined to "ensure that every piece of our apparatus is at its optimum so it could deal possibly with a flareup if that's necessary."

Ebola has killed 1,350 people this year, with most deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The DFA hoisted crisis alert level 2 last month in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone because of the Ebola virus outbreak.

Filipinos in countries under alert level 2 are advised to milit non-essential movements, avoid public places, and take extra precautions.

Filipinos are should follow the advice of the local health authorities.

The Ebola virus spreads though body fluids.

The Philippines remains Ebola-free, with strict measures being implemented in airports to monitor the entry of travelers, particularly from countries in Africa where the epidemic first struck.


The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday that it had drawn up a draft strategy plan to combat Ebola in West Africa over the next six to nine months, implying that it does not expect to halt the epidemic this year.

The WHO has faced criticism, including from medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), that it has done too little too late to fight the disease.

"WHO is working on an Ebola road map document, it's really an operational document how to fight Ebola," WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said at a news briefing. "It details the strategy for WHO and health partners for six to nine months to come."

Chaib, asked whether the timeline meant that the United Nations health agency expected the epidemic now raging in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to continue until 2015, said: "Frankly no one knows when this outbreak of Ebola will end."

Ebola will be declared over in a country if two incubation periods, or 42 days in total, have passed without any confirmed case, she said. Nigeria is the fourth country with known cases.

"So with the evolving situation, with more cases reported, including in the three hot places - Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia - the situation is not yet over," Chaib said.

"So this is a planning document for six to nine months that we will certainly revisit when we have new developments."


Senegal has become the latest country to seal its border with a west African neighbor to ward off the deadly Ebola virus.

Senegal's decision to close its land border with Guinea, announced by the interior ministry on Thursday, is part of intensifying efforts to contain the outbreak.

Authorities have been hampered in their fight against Ebola by the deaths of several top health officials and numerous frontline doctors to the virus.

However, two American missionaries who contracted Ebola while treating patients in Liberia and were taken to the US for treatment, have left hospital after making a full recovery.

Kent Brantly, 33, and Nancy Writebol, 60, were given experimental drugs before being airlifted to a hospital in Atlanta where they were treated for the last three weeks.

"The discharge from the hospital of both these patients poses no public health threat," said Bruce Ribner, director of Emory Hospital's Infectious Disease Unit.

Liberia, which has seen the biggest toll in this epidemic with 576 deaths, has witnessed chaotic scenes in recent days following a surge in cases.

The Red Cross said the crematorium in Monrovia was struggling to deal with the dozens of bodies being brought in each day.

Workers were having to return corpses to a hospital in the city because they "did not have the capacity to cremate all the bodies", Fayah Tamba, the head of the charity's Liberian office, told a local radio station.

Her comments came a day after troops used tear gas to disperse protesting crowds after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ordered a nightime curfew and quarantine zone in Monrovia's West Point slum and Dolo Town, to the east of the capital.

Fear of the virus spreading to other continents has seen flights to the region cancelled, and authorities around the world have adopted measures to screen travellers arriving from affected nations.


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's special representative for Liberia, Karin Landgren, said West Africa was in urgent need of international medical personnel as well as basic supplies including chlorine, gloves and body bags.

"Healthcare systems in the most affected countries were weak before the outbreak. Now they are overwhelmed," she said.

Meanwhile, as fears grow that the outbreak will spread across Africa and beyond, DR Congo's Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi said a haemorrhagic fever of unknown origin had killed 13 people in the country's northwest in the past two weeks.

"All 13 people who have died suffered from a fever, diarrhoea, vomiting and, in a terminal stage, of vomiting a black matter," he said.

The first victim was a pregnant woman and the 12 others -- including five medics -- died after coming into contact with her. About 80 people who had contact with the deceased are also under observation. - with reports from Reuters and Agence-France-Presse