Ebola outbreak: British Airways suspends flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia over virus

Ebola outbreak: BA suspends flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia over virusTelegraph – by Colin Freeman, and Raziye Akkoc

British Airways has cancelled flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia, cutting off the only direct links between Britain and the Ebola-infected area of west Africa.

The airline, which operates a direct flight four times a week from London to Sierra Leone and on to Liberia, suspended the flight “due to the deteriorating public health situation both countries”.

It follows warnings at the weekend from the World Health Organisation that the outbreak, which has killed nearly 900 people since February, was spreading faster than it could be controlled. Health officials are believed to be particularly concerned about Liberia, where staff are understood have fled hospitals in some areas because of fears that they themselves could become infected.

A statement from British Airways sent to travel companies said: “British Airways services from London Heathrow to Freetown and Monrovia will be temporarily suspended from tomorrow, 6 August until 31 August 2014, due to the deteriorating public health situation in both countries.”

The BA move follows some other international airlines serving the two countries, as well as neighbouring Guinea, which is also affected, though others are still operating to all three.

It comes as health officials revealed that an American who died of Ebola in Nigeria last month is now believed to have infected at least eight other people with the disease.

Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian finance ministry employee with joint American and Liberian citizenship, died in the capital, Lagos, shortly after arriving by air.

Nigeria’s health commissioner, Jide Idris, said all of the eight suspected Ebola cases in Lagos involved people who had been in contact with Mr Sawyer. So far two were confirmed as having the disease, one of them a doctor who had looked after him.

Since Mr Saywer’s case emerged, health officials have tried to find and monitor anyone who came into contact with him, including fellow plane passengers at higher risk because of the enclosed environment.

Six others known to have made contact with Mr Sawyer have been put into quarantine but are not yet showing symptoms. It was not clear whether they had been in touch with Mr Sawyer before or after his plane journey.

A specially-equipped charter plane also transported Nancy Writebol, an Ebola-stricken American aid worker, to the disease hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, where her colleague Dr Kent Brantly was already receiving treatment. There is no cure or vaccine for Ebola, but both US patients have received an experimental serum.

Bruce Johnson, president of the missionary group for which Ms Writebol works, said it was having less effect on her than on Mr Brantly because of her “more weakened condition”.

Ms Writebol arrived at the hospital in Atlanta shortly before 1pm and was wheeled into the hospital strapped onto a gurney and dressed in a protective suit. She did not walk, as Dr Brantly had when he arrived at the hospital last weekend.

Separately, doctors in New York were testing a patient with symptoms similar to those of Ebola – vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and sometimes bleeding – who had recently travelled to West Africa, but said it was not likely to be the disease. However, David Reich, a spokesman for the Mount Sinai Hospital, said: “Odds are this is not Ebola. It’s much more likely it’s a much more common condition.”

In Wales, health officials said an unnamed person believed to have come into contact with the virus in west Africa was in precautionary quarantine. Public Health Wales said: “The individual does not have symptoms of Ebola and there are no cases of Ebola in Wales.”

The World Bank has pledged up to £120 million ($200 million) to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to help those nations contain the outbreak.



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