(AFP) – Seventeen patients infected with Ebola were unaccounted for on Sunday after they fled an armed raid on a quarantine centre in Monrovia by men who claimed the epidemic is a fiction.
“They broke down the door and looted the place. The patients have all gone,” said Rebecca Wesseh, who witnessed the attack out the outskirts of the Liberian capital.
Her report was confirmed by residents and the head of Health Workers Association of Liberia, George Williams.
Williams said the unit housed 29 patients who “had all tested positive for Ebola” and were receiving preliminary treatment before being taken to hospital.
“Of the 29 patients, 17 fled last night (after the assault). Nine died four days ago and three others were yesterday (Saturday) taken by force by their relatives” from the centre, he said.
The attackers, mostly young men armed with clubs, shouted that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf “is broke” and “there’s no Ebola” in Liberia as they broke into the unit in a Monrovia suburb, Wesseh said.
Residents had opposed the creation of the centre, set up by health authorities in part of the city considered an epicentre of the Ebola outbreak in the Liberian capital.
“We told them not to (build) their camp here. They didn’t listen to us,” said a young resident, who declined to give his name.
“We don’t believe in this Ebola outbreak.”
The Ebola outbreak, the worst since the virus first appeared in 1976, has claimed 1,145 lives in five months, according to the UN World Health Organization’s latest figures as of August 13: 413 in Liberia, 380 in Guinea, 348 in Sierra Leone and four in Nigeria.