Via The Guardian: Ebola in Sierra Leone: myths and misconceptions. Click through for the photos illustrating this report. Excerpt:
The first case of Ebola in Sierra Leone was reported in Kailahun district in May. It has since spread to Kenema district, which is now the worst-hit area in the country. There are more than 45 patients inside the Kenema treatment centre, which is stretched to capacity. Like many communities in Sierra Leone, the people of Kenema are trying to understand the disease and decipher the rumours, myths and misconceptions surrounding it.
A health worker wearing protective gear offers water to a woman with Ebola in Kenema. Workers in the treatment centre are stretched to capacity. The UN children’s agency, Unicef, is supporting the hospital by providing intravenous fluids, protective gear and body bags.
As of 4 August, 1,711 cases, including 932 deaths, had been attributed to Ebola in the four west African countries of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone has had 691 of these cases (576 confirmed, 49 probable and 66 suspected), including 286 deaths.
Sister Nancy Yoko, 36, in the office of the Ebola treatment ward with her colleagues. The staff are devastated by the death of six nurses and one doctor who worked within the ward and became infected. The few nurses who remain are exhausted, overworked and demoralised.
“We are known as the ‘Ebola nurses’,” says Nancy. “No one wants to come close to us, the nurses in the general ward won’t talk to us, even our families are scared they will catch the virus from us.”
Sister Rebecca Lansana, who also works on the Ebola ward, says she is nervous about the high number of staff deaths and so is her family.
“My family do not want me to come here anymore. They think I will die, they don’t want to be around me in case I give them Ebola.”
Health workers are being stigmatised and threatened. Rumours surface daily around the Ebola outbreak. “I heard that some people wanted to burn the hospital down, they are angry with us, they don’t believe we are trying to help,” she adds.
Ebola is a new disease in Sierra Leone and when the first cases emerged, many people thought it was a government conspiracy to undermine certain tribal groups, steal organs or get money from international donors.
Two weeks ago, a group of mostly young boys gathered outside Kenema hospital and hurled stones at the gates, attracting a crowd of about 1,000 people.
Many say the mini riot was sparked when a woman, claiming to be a nurse, spoke on the radio and said Ebola was not real and that health workers were using it as a way to harvest organs and steal blood. The streets were closed off that evening and a 10pm curfew was called. One witness said the men responded positively to a woman who walked up to them and addressed them directly, who explained that she had lost her daughter to the virus.
Ibrahim Sidibe throws salt throughout the grounds of Kenema hospital. “God told [our] pastor that if we sprinkle salt through the hospital and pray, Ebola will disappear within 21 days. We want to fight this Ebola by divine means.”