The nonprofit groups that employed two American citizens who contracted Ebola in Africa have closed a Liberia treatment center over civil disturbances, and plan to evacuate 60 people because of the disease risk.
Protesters “got out of hand” outside an Ebola treatment center in Foya, near the Guinea border, leading the two North Carolina-based agencies to shut down the center, said Bruce Johnson, an executive with SIM USA.
“It was a growing civil unrest and the local authorities were not able to secure the situation,” Johnson said in a telephone interview.
Ebola has killed 672 people in four West African nations since March, the worst outbreak since the virus was first reported in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976. In Sierra Leone, Sheik Umar Khan, a doctor leading the fight against Ebola there, died yesterday from the virus, according to Doctors Without Borders, a volunteer doctor’s group. Khan had been cared for at a center in Kailahun since last week, Tim Shenk, a spokesman for the group said in an e-mail.
With no known cure, the illness can lead to bleeding from the eyes, ears and nose, and causes death in as many as 90 percent of those who get it. More than 1,200 people have been infected during the African outbreak, the World Health Organization said July 27 in a statement.
The incident in Foya isn’t an isolated case. In Sierra Leone, relatives of patients are refusing to let medical staff treat them, making it difficult to reduce the number of new infections, Brima Kargbo, the country’s chief medical officer, said in an interview. Families have also been attacking doctors, he said.
Kent Brantly, the medical director of the Monrovia center, and Nancy Writebol, the personnel director for SIM, are being treated for Ebola infection, officials said in a statement yesterday. The two American citizens, both of whom arrived in Liberia last year, remain at the center in stable condition with around the clock care, according to Johnson.
There is no cure or vaccine for Ebola, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Treatment focuses on replenishing fluids, maintaining proper blood pressure and replacing lost blood, as well as treating any other infections.
SIM stands for Serving in Mission. The Christian missionary group works with Samaritan’s Purse, which supplies medical professionals and workers in Liberia. The Foya center has 20 beds; a second center with 20 beds run by both groups in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, remains open, Johnson said.
“SIM and Samaritan’s Purse are the two organizations in all of Liberia that are serving the country in combating the Ebola outbreak,” Johnson said. “It’s like fighting a brushfire with a squirt gun.”
The Ebola virus is transmitted from wild animals including chimpanzees, gorillas and bats, according to the Geneva-based WHO. Humans spread it through contact with bodily fluids. It causes fever, diarrhea and vomiting.
Nigeria reported its first case last week after an infected Liberian man landed in Lagos, Africa’s largest city. Liberia has shut all minor border crossings and is setting up testing centers at major entry points, AllAfrica.com reported, citing a government statement. The victim, Peter Sawyer, who later died, had worked at Liberia’s finance ministry and was also an American citizen with three daughters and a wife in the U.S., BBC Africa reported yesterday.
Liberia shut the ministry for a day and said officials who had contact with Sawyer will be watched for signs of the illness.
A top Liberian doctor, Samuel Brisbane, also died over the weekend after treating Ebola patients, the country’s Ministry of Health said.