Liberia: Ebola fears rise as clinic is looted

Items stolen included bloody sheets and mattresses
Associated Press
Aug 18, 2014

 

Liberian officials fear Ebola could soon spread through the capital's largest slum after residents raided a quarantine center for suspected patients and took items including bloody sheets and mattresses.

The violence in the West Point slum occurred late Saturday and was led by residents angry that patients were brought to the holding center from other parts of Monrovia, Tolbert Nyenswah, assistant health minister, said Sunday.

Up to 30 patients were staying at the center and many of them fled at the time of the raid, said Nyenswah. Once they are located they will be transferred to the Ebola center at Monrovia's largest hospital, he said.

West Point residents went on a "looting spree," stealing items from the clinic that were likely infected, said a senior police official, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the press. The residents took medical equipment and mattresses and sheets that had bloodstains, he said. Ebola is spread through bodily fluids including blood, vomit, feces and sweat.

"All between the houses you could see people fleeing with items looted from the patients," the official said, adding that he now feared "the whole of West Point will be infected."

Some of the looted items were visibly stained with blood, vomit and excrement, said Richard Kieh, who lives in the area.

The incident creates a new challenge for Liberian health officials who were already struggling to contain the outbreak.

Liberian police restored order to the West Point neighborhood Sunday. Sitting on land between the Montserrado River and the Atlantic Ocean, West Point is home to at least 50,000 people, according to a 2012 survey.

Distrust of government runs high in West Point, with rumors regularly circulating that the government plans to clear the slum out entirely.

Though there had been talk of putting West Point under quarantine should Ebola break out there, assistant health minister Nyenswah said Sunday no such step has been taken. "West Point is not yet quarantined as being reported," he said.

Ebola has killed 1,145 people in West Africa, including 413 in Liberia, according to the World Health Organization.

Other countries across Africa are grappling to prevent Ebola's spread with travel restrictions, suspensions of airline flights, public health messages and quarantines.

Nigeria appears to be making progress in containing the disease. The country has 12 confirmed cases of Ebola, all of which stem from direct contact with the Liberian-American man who flew to Nigeria late last month while ill. He infected several health workers before dying.

Since then three others have died in Nigeria from Ebola, according to figures released over the weekend.

One Nigerian doctor has survived the disease and was sent home Saturday night and five others confirmed with Ebola have almost fully recovered, said the Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu in a statement Saturday night.

The most important part of containing the disease is to track all those who had contact with Ebola patients and to closely monitor them in order to quarantine if they show any symptoms. Nigeria had 242 people under surveillance but now 61 have been cleared and released, after completing the 21-day period without showing any signs of Ebola, said the health ministry.

In East Africa, Kenya will bar passengers traveling from the three West African countries badly hit by the Ebola outbreak. The suspension is effective midnight Tuesday for all ports of entry for people traveling from or through Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, said Kenya's Health Ministry. Nigeria was not included in the ban, which also allows entry to health professionals and Kenyans returning from those countries.

Following the government's announcement Saturday, Kenya Airways said it would suspend flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Kenya Airways, a major transport provider in Africa flies more than 70 flights a week to West Africa.

Several airlines have already suspended flights to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, including British Airways, Emirates Airlines, Arik Air and ASKY Airlines.

Officials in Cameroon, which borders Nigeria, announced Friday it would suspend all flights from all four Ebola-affected countries. Korean Air announced on Thursday it would temporarily halt its service to Kenya despite the fact there are no cases of Ebola in the country.

Comments

The Answer Person

Nothing new in Dodge...

Really are you ...

Biological warfare. How long can a virus survive on a contaminated piece of material? How long can a virus survive in a living host? There are two Ebola survivors here in the United States from Africa.

Florence Nightingale

On a contaminated object, not very long. I believe I've read a day or two for this virus - long enough for it to potentially infect a person who touches it and then touches their face, for example. In a living host, since there's no cure for it yet, it will live until either the host's immune system clears it or it kills the host.

Finn Finn

Terribly irresponsible. Again I say, they don't know everything about this virus. They put so called "information" out there so there won't be a panic. 21 days with no symptoms? Is this an arbitrary timeline or is there a scientific basis for this? And if there is a "scientific basis" for this protocol, is the "science" open to interpretation? or rock solid accurate.

Florence Nightingale

There is a scientific basis for this. Ebola has been known about since the seventies, it's not a brand new virus. There have been outbreaks in African countries before - the reason this one is getting so much attention is because it's so large and has spread to countries that hadn't had it before. And the reason it's spreading would seem to be due to things like this article reports.

Finn Finn

I beg to differ re: the reason it's spreading "would seem to be due to things like this article reports." The American doctor who was flown to Atlanta took proper precautions. The photos that I have seen of him tending to the sick show him wrapped up with gloves, gowns, face shield, etc. He even had his gloves and sleeves sealed at the wrists with some sort of tape. He still caught it - somehow?

You also state that the virus will die when "it kills the host". Not true. Precautions must be taken when "disposing" (my apologies, for lack of a better term) of the body, as fluids from the body can still spread the infection. This virus is not influenza or the measles. I don't think it should be downplayed.

Florence Nightingale

Yes, I'm sorry, I didn't state that very well. What I should have said is that the virus cannot continue to replicate after the death of the host, as it needs living cells to do that. But you are absolutely correct that the virus already there will still be present in the bodily fluids of the deceased for a time, hence the recommendation to bury the victims quickly and take precautions during the handling.
And I'm not at all trying to downplay the disease - my only point is that the CDC isn't pulling recommendations out of thin air, the virus has been known about for years.
I thought this article by the chief nurse at Emory was interesting: http://www.washingtonpost.com/po...

2cents's picture
2cents

Close their boarder and step back, let god sort it out for them :(

Donegan

Ever get the idea that these people are making it too easy for karma to step in?
Liberians- "Hey lets riot and loot stuff."
Karma - "ALLLRRRIIGGHHTTYYY THEN!!"
One week later
Grave digger - "Seems business has gotten better..."

Presto

Seriously - these countries should be isolated from the rest of the world.
No one coming in or going out. Anyone who chooses to sneak into these countries should be isolated there. (and not be flown back to their home countries when they contract the disease-they chose to be there then stay there). It sickens me that people (doctors or whoever) have chosen to go to these areas where Ebola lies and then they agree to allow themselves to be flown back -risking contamination of their health care support team members here in the U.S. (who DO have families and children and spouses for gods sake!).
The borders for these countries should be shut down indefinitely. ( for years if that's what it takes)
If the residents wish to puke and poop and bleed on each others sheets clothes and homes (or steal their neighbors nasty items just for fun) then I guess have at it! There comes a point where endangering entire nations full of people (like the U.S.) when U.S. doctors decide to travel to these areas (and then get sick and get shipped back) is Selfish to say the least. Doctors without Borders I can understand with some disease situations= not this one. Those doctors need to stay within those borders= border lines are drawn for good reasons!!!!

knowitall

How do you find a cure if you don't study a virus? Someone with some advance medical knowledge and techniques has to so the job. These third world countries don't have those advances.
Ain't no ain't no way to prevent everyone from going in or coming out of a country 100%. Border lines are not drawn except on maps. One area looks like another. I can be in four counties in Bellevue in a matter of minutes. Think immigration.........but, let's not get started on that!
Any humanitarian issues you are for?

Presto

Scientists around the world have been studying & trying to find a cure/vaccine for Ebola since it first appeared in the 70's. They do this in labs -they dont have to manually travel to hospitals full of contaminated people to find the virus & work with it. Doctors who live in Africa can choose to import experimental drugs/vaccines if they wish to try to use them on their citizens. None of this needs to involve doctors or missionaries or citizens from any other country coming and going in and out of contaminated regions (period).
Indeed anyone can read signs posted and understand travel restrictions in and out of contaminated countries. Lines dont need to be physically painted on the ground for African borders to be completely and 100% closed.
I'm in favor of (and support) humanitarian issues involving countries helping themselves and their own people/problems. If everyone (professional and otherwise) in the U.S. truely focused on the people / problems happening right here in the U.S. and used ALL U.S. MONEY/resources to help our own -(and all other countries - developed or not did the same) - everyone would certainly have their hands full. NO U.S. financial support (or support in any other way besides jail for infinity lol or immediate deportation) for illegal immigrants. Again, the U.S. has their hands full with their own poor, sick, old, handicapped, (etc etc)! If we didn't make sure crossing the border paid off so highly - no one would cross it. Sure never see entire families of U.S. citizens sneaking into crappy Mexico lol.

knowitall

You make some solid points.