A Samaritan's Purse team member hands out pamphlets to
educate the public on the Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia.
Liberia will close schools and consider quarantining some
communities, it says, rolling out the toughest measures yet
imposed by a West African government to halt the worst outbreak
on record of the deadly Ebola virus.
"This is a major public health emergency. It's fierce, deadly
and many of our countrymen are dying and we need to act to
stop the spread," Lewis Brown, Liberia's information
minister, told Reuters. "We need the support of the
international community now more than ever. We desperately
need all the help we can get."
Security forces in Liberia were ordered to enforce the action
plan, which includes placing all non-essential government
workers on 30-day compulsory leave.
Highly infectious Ebola has been blamed for 672 deaths in the
West Africa nations of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone,
according to the World Health Organization. Liberia accounted
for just under one-fifth of those deaths. The first cases of
this outbreak were confirmed in Guinea's remote southeast
early this year. It then spread to the capital, Conakry, and
into neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The fatality rate of the current outbreak is around 60
percent although the disease can kill up to 90 percent of
those who catch it. The illness, called viral hemorrhagic
fever, has symptoms that include external bleeding, massive
internal bleeding, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The U.S. Peace Corps said on Wednesday it was temporarily
withdrawing 340 volunteers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and
Guinea and that two of its volunteers had been isolated and
were under observation after coming in contact with a person
who later died of the Ebola virus.
The Peace Corp has 102 volunteers in Guinea, 108 in Liberia
and 130 in Sierra Leone working in education, health and
The State Department has confirmed that one U.S. citizen died
from Ebola in Nigeria after being infected in Liberia. Two
other American aid workers infected with Ebola, Dr. Kent
Brantly and missionary Nancy Writebol, are in serious
condition, but they have shown slight improvement. They were
part of a team in Liberia from North Carolina-based Christian
relief groups Samaritan's Purse and SIM.
'ONLY HEALTHCARE WORKERS WILL BE PERMITTED'
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said in a speech
posted on the presidency's website that the government was
considering quarantining several communities based on the
recommendation of the health ministry. http://www.emansion.gov.lr/
An earlier draft of the measures sent to Reuters specified
communities to be quarantined.
"When these measures are instituted, only healthcare workers
will be permitted to move in and out of those areas. Food and
other medical support will be provided to those communities
and affected individuals," she said, adding that all markets
in border areas are to be closed.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters that
President Barack Obama had been briefed on Tuesday by his
homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, and that the White
House was monitoring the deadly outbreak.
"The CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
has said this is not a risk to the United States at this
time," Schultz told reporters traveling with the president
back to Washington from Kansas City, Missouri. He said the
U.S. government had increased assistance to countries
Schultz said the White House would proceed with a planned
U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington Aug. 4-6 that about
50 Africa leaders are expected to attend to discuss trade and
investment between the United States and Africa.
Liberia's President Surleaf said she would not be attending
the summit but that Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai and a
few cabinet ministers "whose presence are absolutely
necessary" would attend.
"We have no plans to change any elements of the U.S.-Africa
Leaders Summit as we believe all air travel continues to be
safe," Schultz said.
Last week, 40-year-old Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer, a
consultant for the Liberian finance ministry, died from Ebola
in Nigeria after having traveled from Liberia. Authorities in
Nigeria, as well as Ghana and Togo, through which he passed
en route to Lagos, are trying to trace passengers who were on
the same plane as he was.
On Wednesday, Britain held a top-level government meeting to
discuss the spread of Ebola in West Africa, saying the
outbreak was a threat it needed to respond to.
Mike Noyes, head of humanitarian response at Action Aid UK,
said people affected by Ebola should be treated with
compassion and not criminalized.
"Enforced isolation of a whole community is a medieval
approach to controlling the spread of disease," he said. Some
airlines in the region have cut routes to countries affected
by Ebola, even as the WHO is saying it does not recommend
travel restrictions as a step to control outbreaks.
On Wednesday, Liberian health officials said an isolation
unit for Ebola victims in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, was
overrun with cases and health workers were being forced to
treat up to 20 new patients in their homes.
Protests by the local community against construction of an
isolation unit at Elwa Hospital have ended, said Tolbert
Nyenswah, an assistant minister of health, but patients with
Ebola symptoms will have to wait at home until work is
"The staff here are overwhelmed. This is a humanitarian
crisis in Liberia," Nyenswah told Reuters by telephone.
Nyenswah said the suspected patients were being treated by
trained medical staff with full protective gear, but it would
take at least 24 to 36 hours to build the new unit.
Initial resistance to building a new isolation unit
highlighted the fear and mistrust health workers have faced
across West Africa as they battle the outbreak, which has
strained the region's weak health systems.
Dozens of local health workers, including Sierra Leone and
Liberia's leading two Ebola doctors, have died treating
Samaritans Purse said on Wednesday it would stop running
case-management centers in Liberia after an attack on
employees over the weekend and resistance from the local
community to the expansion of their unit in Monrovia. The
organization said it was withdrawing non-essential staff from