Infected Ebola patients flee after attack on quarantine centre
Seventeen Ebola patients in Liberia who fled from a quarantine centre after it was attacked by club-wielding youths were missing on Sunday (Aug 17), striking a fresh blow to efforts to contain the deadly virus.
The attack on the centre in Liberia's capital Monrovia late on Saturday (Aug 16) highlighted the challenge faced by health authorities battling the epidemic that has killed 1,145 people since it erupted in west Africa early this year.
Doctors and nurses are not only fighting the disease, but a deep mistrust in communities often in the thrall of wild rumours that the virus was invented by the West or is a hoax.
Health workers wearing protective clothing prepare to carry an abandoned dead body presenting with Ebola symptoms at Duwala market in Monrovia. Photo: Reuters
“They broke down the door and looted the place. The patients have all gone,” said Rebecca Wesseh, who witnessed the raid in the Liberian capital’s densely populated West Point slum.
Attackers yelled: 'There's no Ebola'
The attackers, mostly young men armed with clubs, shouted insults about President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and yelled “there’s no Ebola,” she said, adding that nurses had also fled the centre.
A health ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the youths took away medicines, mattresses and bedding from the high school which had been turned into an isolation centre to deal with the rapidly spreading virus.
The head of the Health Workers Association of Liberia, George Williams, said the unit housed 29 patients who “had all tested positive for Ebola” and were receiving preliminary treatment before being taken to hospital.
Ebola is spread by contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids, such as sweat and blood, and no cure or vaccine is currently available.
Victims in their final days are wracked by agonising muscular pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and catastrophic haemorrhaging described as “bleeding out,” as vital organs break down.