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Protesters looted Ebola clinic; patients and possibly contaminated items missing

Authorities fighting Ebola virus, as well as looter in Liberia
Authorities fighting Ebola virus, as well as looter in Liberia
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Fear can cause people to go to extreme measures to protect themselves. But sometimes those actions can backfire, potentially manifesting what was feared in the first place. CNN is reporting today that angry young men attacked a facility in Liberia housing patients being treated for the Ebola virus. The attack occurred on Saturday and is a sign of the violence that ignorance can spur. Fortunately, in this case, no one was hurt, at least not during the melee.

The facility is located in the West Point area of Monrovia. The invasion led to many of the patients panicking and fleeing the clinic. This was one of the worse things that could have happened, because they can now possibly contaminate others they come in contact with. According to George Williams, head of the Health Workers Association of Liberia, "Of the 29 patients, 17 fled last night (after the assault). Nine died four days ago and three others were yesterday taken by force by their relatives.” Those 17, as of Monday, are still considered missing.

Authorities believe the attack was fueled by a combination of reasons. The two chief reasons are polar opposites. Some people do not believe that the Ebola epidemic is real. They think that is an oppressive hoax to keep them living in a state of terror; and thereby, more easily controlled. Witnesses report that the men who broke into the treatment center were yelling, "there's no Ebola.”

Those who accept that the Ebola virus is real are just as untrusting of the government. They have been assured that the quarantine is an effective method of containing the virus, but then stories were reported of the doctors and nurses themselves taking sick right there in the facility. There is unrest because they do not want the infirmary housed in their area.

As so often happens in protests, there is an element of society that is given to looting even in times of the most severe crisis. According to reporter Zoom Dosso, the perpetrators stole “medicines, mattresses and bedding from the high school which had been turned into an isolation centre to deal with the rapidly spreading virus.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the virus is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with:

· a sick person's blood or body fluids (urine, saliva, feces, vomit, and semen).

· objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected body fluids.

· infected animals.

Ironically these young men may have unleashed a second outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus if they have used, or given to others to use, any contaminated materials they took from the clinic.

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