Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Liberia: Ebola Fears Rise as Clinic Is Looted

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Liberia: Ebola Fears Rise as Clinic Is Looted

Article excerpt

MONROVIA, Liberia * 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 took place late Saturday and was led by residents angry that patients had been brought to the holding center from other parts of Monrovia, assistant health minister Tolbert Nyenswah said Sunday.

As many as 30 patients were staying at the center, and many of them fled at the time of the raid, Nyenswah said. 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 probably 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."

The incident creates a new challenge for Liberian health officials, 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 that no such step had 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. …

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