Bodies dumped in streets as Ebola spirals out of control
Liberian medical chiefs warned that their war-shattered health service was being overwhelmed by the Ebola outbreak yesterday, as reports emerged of residents dumping bodies of suspected victims of the virus in the streets.
Tolbert Nyenswah, the deputy chief medical officer and assistant health minister, said the outbreak had forced a number of hospitals and clinics to close because staff were scared to work in them.
He disclosed that some 67 health workers had become infected, and that many of the 6,000-strong work force were reluctant to return to their jobs.
On Wednesday night, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf declared a state of emergency across the country, and also despatched troops in full combat gear to block people travelling to Liberia's capital from rural areas hit by Ebola.
In some parts of the country - devastated by civil war during the 1990s - locals had been dumping bodies of family members on the streets rather than taking them to hospitals or morgues, said Liberia's information minister, Lewis Brown.
Health facilities are sometimes feared to be sources of the virus, while many are scared that if they identify a body as being that of a relation, they will be ostracised in their communities or forced to go into quarantine in government clinics. Such fears increase the risk of people incubating Ebola.
Separately, the first European victim of the Ebola outbreak arrived in Spain yesterday and was taken to a Madrid hospital.
Miguel Pajares (75) was helping to treat Ebola patients in Liberia when he tested positive for the virus earlier this week.
He was flown to Spain along with a colleague, Juliana Bohi, a nun from Equatorial Guinea with Spanish nationality. The priest's condition was said to be stable with no signs of bleeding, while the Sister Juliana appeared to be well.
In Liberia, Mr Nyenswah warned that with 95pc of the country's health infrastructure having been destroyed during the civil war, it was still "simply too weak" to cope.
"We need support from the outside for an outbreak like this," he said. "Ebola is a global public health problem that is crossing international borders and it is too much for poor health systems like ours that are devastated by conflict."
Many Liberian health workers were scared to return to work, he said, because the early symptoms of Ebola were very similar to other illnesses, such as malaria and influenza.
In Sierra Leone, soldiers deployed yesterday as part of "Operation Octopus", to prevent "the unauthorised movement of Ebola-infected persons".
West Africans battling to contain the spread of the virus would have to wait for months until a potentially life-saving drug used on two Americans infected with the disease could even be made, officials said. There are only small amounts of the experimental drug ZMapp available now, and even if it could be made in large quantities, its safety and effectiveness have to be tested.
Officials in Nigeria say they have asked the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention about access to the drug, but a CDC spokesman said "there are virtually no doses available". (© Daily Telegraph, London)