Liberian Officials Confirm Missing PatientsAugust 19, 2014 in Liberia
Despite earlier denials, Liberia’s government confirmed Monday that seventeen suspected Ebola patients have gone missing after a health centre in the capital city was attacked and looted over the weekend.
Police officials disclosed late Saturday that a quarantine centre for suspected Ebola patients in the Liberian capital Monrovia has been attacked and looted by protesters.
While the government had initially sought to reassure people by stating that all the patients had been transferred to an Ebola treatment centre in the John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Centre in Monrovia, on Monday, Information Minister Lewis Brown confirmed that 17 of the thirty-seven patients are unaccounted for and that they likely have gone “back into their communities”. The Minister further disclosed that authorities are now trying to track them down, adding that he remains confident that they will return.
The incident occurred Saturday evening in the densely populated West Point town ship, with hospital officials stating at least twenty patients, who were being monitored for signs of the deadly virus, had left the centre. A senior police officer also confirmed that blood-stained mattresses, bedding and medical equipment were taken from the centre.
While the assistant to the health minister disclosed that the incident occurred because protesters were unhappy that patients were being brought in from other parts of the capital city, other reports have suggested that protesters believed that the Ebola virus was a hoax and that they wanted to force the quarantine centre to close. The centre was set up in order to observe suspected Ebola patients and to then transfer them to a main centre if their tests proved to be positive. It currently remains unknown if the centre had patients infected with the virus however one report suggested that there were patients that had tested positive for the virus.
Meanwhile on Monday the World Health Organization (WHO) called for exit screenings on all travellers from the affected countries. A statement released by the WHO indicated that officials now want health checks to be carried out at all airports, sea ports and major land crossings of the four countries affected by the current Ebola outbreak. New data released by the WHO on Friday indicated that the death toll has now risen to 1,145, with 2,127 cases reported in total. The outbreak is currently affecting Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.