This man carried a young girl out of the West Point health facility. Photo: Getty Images
17 infected Ebola patients have fled a quarantine centre, and a further 10 have been removed by their families after the facility was attacked by protesters in the Liberian capital Monrovia.
The mob was trying to force the closure of the centre after patients were brought in from other parts of the country.
As the situation escalated the centre was looted, with bedding, mattresses, medical equipment and even clothing being taken. Heath experts fear that some of the items may be contaminated with bodily fluids and more infections with the deadly virus may occur.
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.(source)
All the medical staff left during the riot leaving the crowded West Point area of the city with no medical experts. There are legitimate fears that the patients and the stolen items could cause a surge of cases in the West Point area, described as slum housing that is home to some 50,000 people.
The Ebola outbreak is showing no signs of slowing. The World Health Organisation recorded 76 deaths in 48 hours up to 13th August, new press releases are expected later today covering the last week.
The mob resents an Ebola centre in their neighbourhood. Photo: Getty Images.
West Point is the poorest area of Liberia, some comment it is the most run down area in the whole of Africa. With open sewers disease is rife in the area. Typhoid, cholera and malaria are just some of the diseases that the residents contend with on a daily basis. To have a disease such as Ebola, passed on by ANY bodily fluids, loose in such an area is a recipe for a health disaster that will dwarf the current outbreak.
The New York Times is reporting that West African governments are setting up cordons around infected areas:
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is so out of control that governments there have revived a disease-fighting tactic not used in nearly a century: the “cordon sanitaire,” in which a line is drawn around the infected area and no one is allowed out. Cordons, common in the medieval era of the Black Death, have not been seen since the border between Poland and Russia was closed in 1918 to stop typhus from spreading west. They have the potential to become brutal and inhumane. Centuries ago, in their most extreme form, everyone within the boundaries was left to die or survive, until the outbreak ended. Plans for the new cordon were announced on Aug. 1 at an emergency meeting in Conakry, Guinea, of the Mano River Union, a regional association of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the three countries hardest hit by Ebola, according to Agence France-Presse. The plan was to isolate a triangular area where the three countries meet, separated only by porous borders, and where 70 percent of the cases known at that time had been found.
Troops began closing internal roads in Liberia and Sierra Leone last week. The epidemic began in southern Guinea in December, but new cases there have slowed to a trickle. In the other two countries, the number of new cases is still rapidly rising. As of Monday, the region had seen 1,848 cases and 1,013 deaths, according to the World Health Organization, although many experts think that the real count is much higher because families in remote villages are avoiding hospitals and hiding victims. Officials at the health organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which have experts advising the countries, say the tactic could help contain the outbreak but want to see it used humanely. “It might work,” said Dr. Martin S. Cetron, the disease center’s chief quarantine expert. “But it has a lot of potential to go poorly if it’s not done with an ethical approach. Just letting the disease burn out and considering that the price of controlling it — we don’t live in that era anymore. And as soon as cases are under control, one should dial back the restrictions.”
Experts said that any cordon must let food, water and medical care reach those inside, and that the trust of inhabitants must be won through communication with their leaders. The phrase cordon sanitaire, or sanitary barrier, appears to date from 1821, when France sent 30,000 troops into the Pyrenees to stop a lethal fever raging in Spain from crossing the border. In Sierra Leone, large sections of the Kailahun and Kenema districts, an area the size of Jamaica, have been cut off by military roadblocks. Soldiers check the credentials and take the temperatures of those trying to go in or out. In Liberia, similar restrictions have been imposed north of the capital, Monrovia.
This is leading to extreme food shortages in some areas with farmers unable to attend to their crops that are often outside of the village cordons. Although the cordon system has worked before, such as the village of Eyam in Derbyshire,UK during the plague, which voluntarily isolated itself to protect the village, the vast openess of some areas of Africa make it difficult to enforce. Many villages are now effectively cut off and the people are getting desparate.
The economy of the region is also starting to suffer as truck drivers refuse to deliver to some areas wher Ebola has been reported. With shops and stores closing their doors and major airlines suspending flights the situation worsens by the day.
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Contributed by Lizzie Bennett of Underground Medic.
Lizzie Bennett retired from her job as a senior operating department practitioner in the UK earlier this year. Her field was trauma and accident and emergency and she has served on major catastrophe teams around the UK. Lizzie publishes Underground Medic on the topic of preparedness.