In Summary
  • Volunteers have so far been deployed to 57 districts of Lagos state but more are needed, particularly to treat those already infected with the disease, Bello said.
  • The Ebola outbreak, the worst since the virus first appeared in 1976, has claimed 1,145 lives in five months, according to the UN World Health Organization’s latest figures as of August 13: 413 in Liberia, 380 in Guinea, 348 in Sierra Leone and four in Nigeria

MONROVIA, Sunday

Seventeen patients infected with Ebola were unaccounted for Sunday after they fled an armed raid on a quarantine centre in Monrovia by men who claimed the epidemic is a fiction.

“They broke down the door and looted the place. The patients have all gone,” said Rebecca Wesseh, who witnessed the attack out the outskirts of the Liberian capital.

Her report was confirmed by residents and the head of Health Workers Association of Liberia, Mr George Williams.

Mr Williams said the unit housed 29 patients who “had all tested positive for Ebola” and were receiving preliminary treatment before being taken to hospital.

“Of the 29 patients, 17 fled last night (after the assault). Nine died four days ago and three others were yesterday (Saturday) taken by force by their relatives” from the centre, he said.

The attackers, mostly young men armed with clubs, shouted that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf “is broke” and “there’s no Ebola” in Liberia as they broke into the unit in a Monrovia suburb, Wesseh said.

Residents had opposed the creation of the centre, set up by health authorities in part of the city considered an epicentre of the Ebola outbreak in the Liberian capital.

“We told them not to (build) their camp here. They didn’t listen to us,” said a young resident, who declined to give his name.
“We don’t believe in this Ebola outbreak.”

The Ebola outbreak, the worst since the virus first appeared in 1976, has claimed 1,145 lives in five months, according to the UN World Health Organization’s latest figures as of August 13: 413 in Liberia, 380 in Guinea, 348 in Sierra Leone and four in Nigeria

Meanwhile, Nigeria Sunday said it has trained 800 volunteers to fight Ebola as fears rose that the worst-ever outbreak of the deadly disease could spread across Africa’s most populous nation.

Authorities in Nigeria’s megacity Lagos last week appealed for volunteers to make up for a shortage of medical personnel because of a six-week doctors’ strike over pay.

“People have heeded our call for service,” said Hakeem Bello, a spokesman for Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola.

“We have trained some 800 volunteers in the area of contact tracing, sensitisation and treatment of the Ebola disease.” Four people have died and six more are infected by Ebola in Nigeria as part of the worst-ever outbreak of the deadly virus, which has killed 1,145 people across west Africa this year.

Experts say Ebola is raging out of control in the region, and the UN World Health Organization has declared the epidemic an international health emergency and appealed for global aid.

The disease erupted in the forested zone straddling the borders of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia earlier this year and spread to Nigeria last month. The districts of Kailahun and Kenema in eastern Sierra Leone have become the new epicentres of the outbreak, with charities and health authorities there scrambling to contain the spread of the disease.

“You cannot mess about here: this virus will kill you. One mistake, one wrong move, and you’re dead — that’s it,” a senior aid worker in Kailahun told AFP.
But officials fear an outbreak in the key regional hub of Nigeria could be far more dangerous, and US health authorities pledged this month to send extra personnel and resources to Africa’s most populous country.

VOLUNTEERS DEPLOYED

Volunteers have so far been deployed to 57 districts of Lagos state but more are needed, particularly to treat those already infected with the disease, Bello said.
Lagos’ state government has stepped up a media campaign to raise awareness of how to prevent the spread of the disease, including radio and television advertisements and public health announcements.

Nigerian doctors have been on strike nationwide since July 1 to demand a pay rise and better working conditions.

Medical charity Doctors without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, on Friday warned Ebola is spreading faster than authorities can handle and could take six months to bring under control.

Draconian travel restrictions have been imposed across west Africa and several airlines have cancelled flights to affected countries in a bid to stop it spreading beyond the region.

Scottish health officials on Saturday confirmed that a woman, reportedly from Sierra Leone, who fell ill at a deportation facility south of Glasgow has tested negative for the virus. (AFP)