Ebola patients ‘mingle’ with crowd at Liberia clinic

Bloodied mattresses taken from clinic in Monrovia by armed men amid efforts to contain virus

Health workers wearing protective clothing prepare to carry an abandoned dead body presenting with Ebola symptoms at Duwala market in Monrovia in Liberia yesterday. Photograph: 2Tango/Reuters.

Health workers wearing protective clothing prepare to carry an abandoned dead body presenting with Ebola symptoms at Duwala market in Monrovia in Liberia yesterday. Photograph: 2Tango/Reuters.

Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 06:54

An attack on an Ebola clinic in Liberia’s capital city is complicating already strained efforts there to contain the virus’s spread.

The Associated Press reported that bloodied mattresses were stolen by armed men at the centre in the West Point neighbourhood in Monrovia.

The patients began to “mingle” with the crowd and some did not return, Frank Sainworla, who runs Catholic radio station Veritas, said.

“The community residents in West Point went to the isolation centre to get mattresses placed at the newly established Ebola Isolation centre,” he said.

The incident shows the complex nature of an outbreak that’s killed more than 1,100 people.

Countries in the region are strengthening border security to limit the disease, and more airlines are discontinuing flights to some affected countries, further isolating them.

The actions come after a top official from Médecins Sans Frontières said it will take months to curb the outbreak, while the World Health Organisation said its running tally of Ebola cases and deaths underestimates the numbers medical workers are reporting.

Nigeria, with 12 confirmed Ebola cases so far, said it has placed almost 200 people under surveillance for the disease, trying to limit the outbreak. Nigeria is the fourth country where Ebola has been reported, following its spread in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. At least 2,100 people have been infected throughout West Africa, the WHO reported.

“We are not talking weeks; we’re talking about months to get an upper hand on the epidemic,” Joanne Liu, international president of Médecins Sans Frontières, said.

The WHO said in a statement that their staff members “at the outbreak sites see evidence that the number of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak.”

The World Food Programme also said that 1 million people are likely to need food aid in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the countries hardest hit by the epidemic. Food, including cooked meals, is being transported into the countries by truck, Steve Taravella, a spokesman, said.

Guinea is among the countries strengthening security at its borders, aiming to control the flow of people from Liberia and Sierra Leone. The country will deploy 42 added military doctors and 42 civilian doctors at crossings, Remy Lamah, Guinea’s minister of health, said in the capital of Conakry.

Kenya Air Lines will suspend flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone from tomorrow, the airline said, citing the risk assessments by Kenya’s ministry of health and the WHO.

Airlines from Gambia, Togo and Nigeria have already stopped flying to the Ebola-hit states, while Korean Air will end operations to Kenya on Wednesday.

Ebola, which can cause bleeding from the eyes, ears and nose, has killed as many as 90 per cent of those infected in the past. In this outbreak more than 40 per cent have survived.

Researchers are speeding up their efforts to test experimental medicines and vaccines for the virus. The WHO said it’s “coordinating a massive scaling up of the international response, marshaling support from individual countries, disease control agencies, agencies within the United Nations system, and others.”

Normal treatment involves keeping patients hydrated, replacing lost blood and using antibiotics to fight infections. The hope is that a patient’s immune system will eventually fight off the virus’s aggressive attack.

Two American health workers infected with the virus in Liberia have received an experimental medicine from Mapp Biopharmaceutical and appear to be improving. Mapp’s antibody is one of several experimental treatments in development.

A Nigerian citizen is being tested for Ebola in Spain after showing symptoms of the disease, the ministry of health said. Blood test results are expected today.

Bloomberg