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Liberian quarantine centre attack increases fears of Ebola's spread


Liberia

Liberian quarantine centre attack increases fears of Ebola's spread

In the West African country of Liberia, health officials say they fear the accelerated spread of Ebola after a quarantine centre for suspected patients was attacked and looted.

More that 20 people who potentially have the highly-contagious disease fled the centre, which is in the West Point slum, the largest in the capital Monrovia.

The looters took blood-stained sheets, blankets and mattresses as well as other items which are likely infected.

The health ministry said the attack was because local people were angry that patients were brought from other parts of Monrovia to the holding centre.

One day earlier a large crowd of West Point residents had blocked a burial team and their police escort from collecting the bodies of suspected Ebola victims.

The government is struggling to contain the disease. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has declared a state of emergency due to the outbreak, widely seen as the country’s biggest challenge since the 1989-2003 civil war. The country has the highest death toll of any of the countries affected.

Many Liberians believe Ebola is a hoax; there have been numerous cases of patients being forcibly removing from clinics, while elsewhere families have been hiding victims because of the stigma.

Up to 90 percent of victims die, although the current outbreak fatality rate is near 60 percent.

Experimental drug given to three African doctors

Health care workers in Liberia have administered three doses of the rare, experimental drug ZMapp to three doctors suffering from Ebola, two medical workers in Monrovia have told Reuters.

Liberia received three doses of the rare serum in a special consignment.

Doctors Zukunis Ireland and Abraham Borbor from Liberia and Dr. Aroh Cosmos Izchukwu from Nigeria are the first Africans to receive the treatment. The drug has already been administered to two American healthcare workers and a Spanish priest, all previously working in Liberian hospitals.

The US healthcare workers’ have since improved, thought it is not clear if that is linked to the drug. The Spanish priest died after being flown back to Madrid.

“Three doctors are currently being administered treatment with the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp. Treatment began on Thursday evening,” said Dr. Billy Johnson, chief medical officer at the John F. Kennedy Medical Centre in Monrovia where two of the doctors served before contracting the deadly virus.

A second healthcare worker at the Elwa centre which is housing the sick doctors confirmed that they were on their third day of a six-day ZMapp treatment.

Details of their condition are not known.

The UN health agency said only around 10 to 12 doses of the drug have been made and this raises difficult ethical questions about who should get priority access.

The apparent improvement in the two US healthcare workers’ condition has stoked popular pressure to make the drug available to Africans – a cause advocated by the Twitter hashtag group #giveustheserum.

There is currently no vaccine against the disease and other forms of treatment are only designed to relieve symptoms such as fever, vomiting and haemorrhaging.

Also read:

Everything you need to know about the Ebola virus

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