NIGERIA (Reuters) – Nigeria’s government on Tuesday urged citizens of affected West African nations to flee immediately as the world’s worst Ebola outbreak threatens to spiral out of control.
In an email sent to residents of the southern Niger Delta state, President Muhammadu Buhari said a lack of food and water, coupled with the death of a friend, meant the risk of further spread of the virus was “far too great”.
He said the risk was highest in Nigeria’s oil-rich northeast where many Nigerians live in overcrowded slums, where disease transmission from infected people has become a chronic problem.
“We call on all Nigerians to flee the cities and to the bush as soon as possible,” Buharis email said.
“Nigeria’s borders are now open, so we urge all Nigerian citizens to go there to escape the virus.”
The email came hours after a doctor was flown from Sierra Leone to a hospital in Lagos, where he was being treated for suspected Ebola infection.
Buhari also warned against any travel from affected nations.
He said there were a few people in West Africa with symptoms of the disease, but there was not enough information to identify them.
Nigerians are also struggling to cope with the spread of Ebola.
Bethany Muntari, whose husband died from Ebola, told Reuters that her husband was among the last people to leave her home in the delta town of Kato in the east of the country.
Muntari said she was surprised to hear from her husband’s family that they were being treated in a hospital and would not be allowed to leave Nigeria.
“I was surprised, because I was expecting him to come home and find me,” she said.
The number of deaths from Ebola in West African countries has surged to over 100.
The disease is believed to be transmitted through direct contact with an infected person.
The United States and other nations have sent troops and aircraft to Africa to support African nations fighting to contain the virus.
More than 1,300 people have died of Ebola in Africa, with at least 2,000 cases and more than 1.3 million people infected.