An Ebola outbreak in Nigeria's oil producing hub of Port Harcourt could spread wider and faster than in the financial capital, Lagos, the World Health Organization warned yesterday.
The UN health body said the virus' arrival in Port Harcourt, 435 kilometres (270 miles) east of Lagos and home to oil and gas majors such as Shell, Total and Chevron, showed "multiple high-risk opportunities for transmission of the virus to others".
Of the 255 people currently under surveillance for signs of the disease, the WHO said 60 were considered to have had "high-risk or very high-risk exposure".
Until the Port Harcourt case was announced, Nigeria's government had indicated that the virus was contained in Lagos.
But the warning will raise fears about the spread of the virus in Africa's most populous nation, top economy and biggest oil producer plus its health sector's ability to cope with a wider outbreak.
Ebola, which has hit five countries in West Africa and caused nearly 2,000 deaths this year, first arrived in Nigeria when a Liberian finance ministry official died in Lagos on July 25.
He was taken from the city's airport to a private hospital by two officials from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS.
One of the officials later died of the disease but the other evaded detection to travel to Port Harcourt, where he fell ill and was treated in secret at a city hotel room by medical doctor Ike Enemuo from August 1-3.