As Liberia struggles to contain the deadliest Ebola outbreak on record, health workers say that fear of the disease, and the stigma of being identified as a possible carrier, is creating a hostile environment for possible victims of the disease.
That terror was on display on Monday in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, where at least 270 people have already died of the illness, when a man suspected of having the disease wandered out of a treatment center and sowed panic in a nearby market.
The incident, which was captured on video by witnesses, showed the man, wearing a medical bracelet, being confronted by angry and worried bystanders. He was then surrounded by health workers in yellow protective suits from the international medical group Doctors Without Borders, who eventually bundled him into the back of a pickup truck and returned him to the clinic.
Sophie-Jane Madden, a press officer for the medical aid group, said in a telephone interview from Monrovia that the man had become disoriented while waiting for an evaluation at the group’s new clinic for patients suspected of having Ebola. After he was brought back from the market and given further medical treatment, he was eventually discharged.
Stefan Liljegren, who manages the Doctors Without Borders Ebola management center in Monrovia, could be seen in the video coordinating the effort to take the man back to the clinic. He said in a statement released on Tuesday that the team operating the 160-bed center was overwhelmed and needed more resources. “Every day we have to turn sick people away because we are too full,” Dr. Liljegren said in the statement. “I have had to tell ambulance drivers to call me before they arrive with patients, no matter how unwell they are, since we are often unable to admit them.”