Ebola outbreak: Fears that deadly disease has claimed first victim outside of Africa after Saudi Arabian man dies in hospital isolation ward

40-year-old Saudi man died in isolation ward

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The Independent Online

A Saudi Arabian national, who fell ill after returning from Sierra Leone, and was being tested for the deadly Ebola virus, has died in hospital, the health ministry said today.

According to reports, the 40-year-old man returned on Sunday from Sierra Leone, where there has been an Ebola outbreak, and was then hospitalized in Jiddah after showing symptoms of the viral hemorrhagic fever.

The Saudi health ministry said today that the man had died in an isolation ward where he was being tested. If confirmed this will be the first Ebola-related death outside of Africa.

The patient's samples are being tested in an international reference lab on the advice of the World Health Organization. He had already tested negative for dengue fever.

Different types of viral hemorrhagic fevers have been found in the kingdom, but the ministry statement said no case of Ebola has ever been detected there.

The news came as global health experts at the World Health Organisation (WHO) met to discuss plans to tackle the disease. The two day meeting will convene to decide whether or not to declare a global health emergency.

The deadly disease, which has no cure, and causes massive internal bleeding, has already claimed the lives of over 900 people in West Africa since February.

The outbreak first began in Guinea and has spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

In Nigeria, a nurse who treated a man with Ebola is now dead and five other people are sick with one of the world’s most virulent diseases after coming into contact with him.

The country has admitted that it failed to treat Patrick Sawyer as an Ebola patient and isolate him for the first 24 hours after his arrival in Nigeria last month.

Experts have claimed that had Mr Sawyer been isolated those medical workers who came into contact with him would not be infected. The delay in enforcing infection control measures, though, is another setback in the battle to stamp out the worst Ebola outbreak in history.

Saudi Arabia announced in April that it was not issuing visas this year to Muslim pilgrims from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea as a precaution to avoid the spread during the hajj pilgrimage, which sees massive crowds of people from around the world gather in Mecca.

Saudi Ambassador in Guinea Amjad Bedaiwi was quoted in the Saudi Arab News Wednesday saying the decision affects a total of 7,400 pilgrims from those three countries.

Additional reporting by agencies