The massive 2014 Ebola outbreak that has killed upwards of 1,550 people in West Africa since exploding out of the forests in eastern Guinea earlier this year may now have hit Sweden. Doctors say they suspect that a young man who fell ill after returning from the Ebola-hit region of Africa is the country’s first victim of the harrowing disease.
“Yes, we have a suspected case, but it’s not confirmed,” said a spokeswoman for Stockholm’s County Council, in a phone call with The Wall Street Journal.
The young man told health officials he had recently traveled back from one of the West African countries hit hard by the Ebola outbreak that shows no signs of subsiding and is the worst in history by far.
The country where the possible Ebola victim traveled has not been specified. But there are three countries that have been stricken most severely by the Ebola virus. They are Guinea, where the outbreak is believed to have originated, and two neighboring states, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Nigeria has also been hit by Ebola, with six deaths in 15 cases since a Liberian-American man, Patrick Sawyer, flew from Liberia to the Nigerian capital of Lagos, becoming ill on the plane and quickly dying of what was determined to be Ebola shortly after disembarking the aircraft in Lagos.
On Thursday, a doctor in Port Harcourt — center of Nigeria’s oil industry — more than 370 miles from Lagos, became the first Nigerian to die of Ebola outside of Lagos.
Authorities believe he contracted the disease from a man who had contact with Sawyer, possibly the driver of the car that picked up the by-then gravely ill Sawyer at the airport.
That driver went missing soon after Sawyer’s death and was later found in Port Harcourt, appearing healthy. But tests showed that his system contained antibodies to the Ebola virus, indicating that he had contracted the disease but somehow survived it.
Ebola does not spread through the air. Instead, contact with any bodily fluids of an infected person, including perspiration, could spread the virus.
Health officials in Sweden, however, have isolated the country’s lone suspected Ebola patient, and say the chances of an outbreak in the European country remain low.
Communicable disease specialist Ake Ortqvist told a Swedish newspaper that he is not convinced the still-anonymous man actually has Ebola.
“The risk that this is an Ebola case is minimal, but we are handling this with extreme care,” he said, adding the chance of an Ebola outbreak in Sweden was “very low.”