Originally published on July 31, 2014, at NationofChange.org
In a desperate attempt to reduce the spread of Ebola, Liberia has closed its borders, declared public gatherings illegal, and placed entire communities under quarantine. While the death toll escalates across West Africa, an increasing number of medical workers have also contracted the highly contagious virus including 2 Americans. A third American died of the disease in Nigeria last week.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has closed all but 3 of her country’s borders to halt the outbreak from spreading to other countries. Border crossings into Guinea and Sierra Leone remain open. The first reports of the West Africa Ebola outbreak appeared in Guinea back in February before spreading to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Guinea’s neighbor, Senegal immediately closed its land border to protect its people from the contagion.
Public gatherings, such as marches or protests, have been restricted in Liberia for multiple reasons. The disease spreads faster when infected people come into contact with large groups. Due to recent protests outside of hospitals and kidnapping Ebola patients, Liberia’s president has declared any public gathering illegal.
According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, many uneducated villagers in Sierra Leone believe the doctors are administering lethal injections to their patients. After a hairdresser named Saudata Koroma contracted Ebola, she entered a government hospital. Fearing the doctors would kill Koroma, her family forcibly removed her from the hospital and kept her in hiding until she later died from the disease.
The first cases of Ebola appeared in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976. Out of the 602 reported cases that year, 431 of them died of the disease. Transmitted through bodily fluids, Ebola has a mortality rate between 50—90%. The first symptoms include fever, fatigue, headaches, and sore throat. Later stages include vomiting, diarrhea, and internal bleeding as the virus effectively liquefies the body’s internal organs.
Patrick Sawyer, a 40-year-old American man of Liberian descent, died on Friday after flying from Liberia to Nigeria. Reportedly suffering from diarrhea and vomiting during the flight, Sawyer collapsed and was immediately placed into quarantine until his death. Nigerian authorities have tightened airport security measures and are currently monitoring anyone who came into contact with Sawyer during the flight. Sawyer possibly contracted the disease while taking his infected sister to a hospital in Liberia.
A number of doctors and medical aid workers have become infected while treating the disease. Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan had been treating patients with Ebola until contracting the virus. He was placed in quarantine where he eventually died from the disease. Last week, Dr. Samuel Brisbane became the first Liberian doctor to die in the outbreak. American medical missionaries, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, have recently tested positive for Ebola while treating patients in Liberia.
According to the World Health Organization, “Health-care workers have frequently been infected…through close contact with patients when infection control precautions are not strictly practiced.”
Insisting that he followed safety protocols and never breached his protective gear while treating Ebola, Dr. Brantly believes he possibly became infected somewhere outside of the Liberian hospital. Quarantined to an isolation unit for Ebola patients, Dr. Brantly’s symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, and headache.
Since February, roughly 1,200 cases of Ebola have been reported with over 670 deaths throughout Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. With no known vaccine or cure, doctors cannot declare an end to the epidemic until 42 days after the last recorded infection.