A man in his 40s is being tested for the deadly Ebola virus in Nigeria's commercial capital of Lagos, a mega-city of 21 million people, the Lagos State Health Ministry said on Thursday.
Ebola has killed 660 people across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since an outbreak in February, straining their flimsy healthcare systems despite international help.A spokesman for the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva confirmed Nigeria had"one suspect case"and said samples had been sent to a WHO lab for testing.
"The Nigerian Ministry of Health has implemented control measures in the meantime,"he told Reuters.
If confirmed, the case would be the first on record of one of the world's deadliest diseases in Nigeria, Africa's biggest economy and, with 170 million people, its most populous country.
Nigeria also has some of the continent's least adequate healthcare infrastructure for a nation of its size, despite access to billions of dollars of oil money as Africa's biggest producer of crude.
The special adviser on public health to the Lagos state government, Yewande Adeshina, told a news conference the man had collapsed on arrival at Lagos airport from Liberia on Sunday. He was rushed to hospital and put in an isolation ward, she said.
"The patient was admitted and detained on suspicion of possible EBV (Ebola virus) infection, while blood sample collection and testing was initiated,"she said in her statement, adding that"results are pending."
Ben Neuman, a virologist and Ebola expert at Britain's University of Reading, said it was important to note that Ebola is one of a number of viruses that can cause hemorrhagic fever, and that others, including Lassa fever virus and Dengue virus, could turn out to be the diagnosis in this case.
"Some of these other, more common hemorrhagic fever viruses have already been the cause of false alarms in the ongoing west African Ebola outbreak,"Neuman told Reuters in London.
"For now, it is important that we wait for the lab results on the patient in Lagos,"he added."Even if Ebola is confirmed, this will be a cause for concern, not panic. Ebola spreads slowly, and can be contained by quarantining suspected cases immediately in hospitals."
The Ebola outbreak started in Guinea's remote southeast and has since spread across the region's poorly controlled borders. Symptoms of the highly infectious disease are diarrhea, vomiting and internal and external bleeding.
Adeshina said Lagos state authorities had requested a flight manifest and would be contacting all the other passengers to warn them of the risk. They would also be tracing any places the passenger had been, and had already distributed protective clothing to health workers, she said.