Via The Economist: Ebola in west Africa: A deadly disease on the prowl.
An outbreak of the deadly Ebola fever in Guinea, with a handful of cases also suspected in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia, is rattling people in the region. The Guinean health minister says the virus has caused at least 60 deaths. The world’s scientists have yet to find a cure for it.
Ebola was first identified in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then known as Zaire) and Sudan in the 1970s. It is said to have been originally transmitted by chimpanzees, gorillas and bats, and can pass between humans via bodily fluids. Guinea’s health minister has banned the sale and consumption of bats.
Foreign experts in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, where the health authorities have yet to confirm any cases, are monitoring developments. The French embassy has warned against travel to northern Liberia, where the cases have been reported.
A Lebanese pharmacist in Monrovia says a white woman bought 500 face masks, and a steady stream of people have bought gloves and hand-sanitisers. Cashiers and security guards in Monrovia’s smart supermarkets are scanning goods and opening doors with rubber-gloved hands.
But many Liberians are sceptical about warnings by the ministry of health, suspecting that they are a ploy to attract and “eat” dollars from foreign donors. Some callers on radio chat shows have accused the ministry of fabricating cases.
“It is intended to scare our people,” says a bearded man in a tea-shop in Monrovia. “They are raising a false alarm.”
Others admit they are worried, and suggest that the border between Liberia and Guinea be closed. But some say that, despite their fears, they will not refuse to shake people’s hands or have physical contact with visitors. That, they say, would be “unLiberian”.