Voice of America (Washington, DC)

22 August 2014

Liberia: Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Capital

The situation remains tense in the Liberian capital after authorities quarantined two large suburbs there this week. The government said it is trying to stop Ebola from spreading further in Monrovia, but people stuck inside the barricaded areas say they are getting hungry and restless.

Two days into the quarantine in Dolo Town and food prices are going up. A 25-kilo sack of rice that would normally sell for $25 is now $40.

"As I speak to you, even a sack of mineral water, we [are] buying it for 250 Liberian dollars. The prices are going way up. How [does] the government want us to survive?" one resident said.

The government gave no advance notice of the quarantine. Residents woke up Wednesday to police putting up checkpoints and makeshift barricades.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has ordered no one to go in or out of Dolo Town or the West Point slum, also located outside the capital. She said the measure is intended to check the spread of Ebola in the capital.

Authorities said more than 20 people who have died in Dolo Town recently are suspected to have had the virus. There is a holding center for suspected cases there but no treatment center.

"We want to have the Ebola test conducted in our community so we can be free and move in and out because I will not continue to live in a cave. Now I cannot go this way. I cannot go that way. I'm really most disappointed with this kind of situation," another local resident said.

Families don't keep large stocks of food at home in these mostly low-income areas.

Ebola Virus: How to Prevent Spreading the Disease

Avoid physical contact with people showing symptoms: continuous high fever, red eyes, vomiting and stomach ache.

Wash hands thoroughly and frequently, including under the fingernails. Use soap and clean water; use hand sanitizer if soap is not available.

Use gloves when taking care of infected patients.

Avoid contact with raw meat; cook all animal food and by-products thoroughly.

Avoid bush meat; avoid buying or eating the wild animals, including nonhuman primates.

Avoid areas of known outbreaks.

Do not touch anyone who has died from Ebola.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mayo Clinic, Plan International

In West Point, the quarantine sparked a panic. Residents trying to venture out to buy food Wednesday clashed with security forces, leaving at least one person dead, a teenage boy shot by police.

"They are cooperating. We are very pleased. It is not about war between any of our citizens and any authority so we are not concerned about who is winning and who is losing. They are cooperating and we are getting there," said Defense Ministry spokesman David Dahn, who in Dolo Town Friday to assess the situation.

Newly opened Ebola treatment centers in Monrovia are already filled to overflowing, but the World Health Organization is also warning of a possible "invisible caseload of patients."

The WHO said people in Liberia and Sierra Leone continue to hide their sick family members, either denying they have Ebola or simply wishing to let their loved ones die at home.

Ebola is spread through close contact with the bodily fluids of a sick person, making those who care for patients susceptible to the virus.

Liberia is now reporting more deaths and more cases than any other affected country.

Senator Clarice Jah of Margibi County, where Dolo Town is located, urged residents to follow health recommendations.

"You love your mom, if your mom come down with it, please do all you can to be able to rush your mom to the nearest center to test her. Your child or your partner, whoever it is. I have come to encourage you. I have come to build your hope," she said.

Senator Jah was among the government officials who donated sacks of rice and beans and plastic buckets for hand washing to residents there Friday.

People at the distribution said the donated goods were nowhere near enough for the area's some 30,000 residents.

Prince Collins reported from Monrovia, Liberia.

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