Via The New York Times: ‘Don’t Touch the Walls’: Ebola Fears Infect an African Hospital. Excerpt:
KENEMA, Sierra Leone — So many patients, nurses and health workers have died in the government hospital that many people in this city, a center of the world’s worst Ebola epidemic, see it as a death trap.
Now, the wards are empty in the principal institution fighting the disease. Ebola stalks the city, claiming lives every day, but patients have fled the hospital’s long, narrow buildings, which sit silent and echoing in the fading light. Few people are taking any chances by coming here.
“Don’t touch the walls!” a Western medical technician yelled out. “Totally infected.”
Some Ebola patients still die at the hospital, perhaps four per day, in the tentlike temporary isolation ward at the back of the muddy grounds. But just as many, if not more, are dying in the city and neighboring villages, greatly increasing the risk of spreading the disease and undermining international efforts to halt the epidemic. Continue reading the main story
“People don’t die here now,” said the deputy chief of the hospital’s burying team, Albert J. Mattia, exasperated after a long day of Ebola burials. “They are dying in the community, five, six a day.” Mr. Mattia was particularly disturbed that many of the bodies his team were putting in the ground had come from outside the hospital, thwarting attempts to isolate patients and prevent them from passing the disease to others.
“It’s very, very dangerous, very hazardous; it is contributing to the Ebola dead,” he said as his two deputies nodded glumly in agreement. “You go to the wards, there are no patients.”
Containing the virus in Kenema — one of the nation’s largest cities and a gateway to an area of the country where the disease is rampant — is critical to taming the epidemic’s deadly advance across parts of West Africa. More than 930 people, including over 280 here in Sierra Leone, have died since the outbreak was first identified across the border in Guinea in March.
Since then, Sierra Leone has been hit with more cases of the disease than any other nation — 691 out of 1,711 at last count — and the hospital in Kenema quickly became a focal point in the effort to grapple with the epidemic when the government set up a treatment center here for cases in the region.