Baffled white Medecins Sans Frontieres (Medicine without Borders, MSF) workers, attempting to contain an outbreak of the deadly Ebola disease, have been attacked by angry mobs of Africans in Guinea causing a clinic in that country to close down.
According to a Reuters report, the crowd of Africans forced the MSF to close down for the safety of its staff, in effect giving the disease even further free run to spread.
“We have evacuated all our staff and closed the treatment center,” MSF spokesman Sam Taylor told Reuters, adding that the attackers in Macenta had accused MSF of bringing the disease to the southeastern town.
The latest outbreak of the disease—which is highly infectious, and for which there is no cure—started in Guinea in February. At least 90 victims have died as the disease has spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Mali, indicating that it is rapidly spreading throughout West Africa in what aid workers have described as an “unprecedented epidemic.”
Ebola first appeared in 1976 in simultaneous outbreaks in Nzara, Sudan, and in Yambuku, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The latter outbreak was in a village situated near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.
Ebola appears to be a disease which was originally transmitted from animals to humans, and infection has been documented through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and other “bushmeat.”
It is for this reason that most Western governments continually warn travellers to Africa of the dangers of sampling local cuisine.
Once transferred to humans, the disease is transmitted through close contact with blood, secretions, or other bodily fluids. Healthcare workers have frequently been infected while treating Ebola patients.
Sexual contact, or the unprotected handling of contaminated corpses, can also lead to infection.
Symptoms of the disease, such as fever, red eyes and bleeding, can take up to three weeks to appear—more than enough time for a victim to travel outside of West Africa.
It was for this reason that an Air France plane, travelling from Guinea, was quarantined in Paris for two hours at the end of last week after the crew suspected a passenger might have the deadly disease.
The flight from the Guinean capital Conakry landed at Paris’s Charles De Gaulle airport at 5:28 am (0328 GMT) on Friday April 4, with 187 passengers and 11 crew members on board.
Emergency services conducted checks for fever on all those travelling after a dirty toilet sparked concern that a passenger could be infected with the disease, which also triggers severe diarrhoea.
France, a former colonial power in much of West Africa, is a major portal for air traffic from the region.
In the US, to where large numbers of West Africans have immigrated over the past two decades, the Center for Disease Control has set up teams at 20 major US airports to respond to an in-flight illness.
The CDC has urged travellers to avoid contact with blood and body fluids from people who might be infected and to seek immediate medical care for symptoms of the haemorrhagic fever, which include fever, headache, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhoea, rash and red eyes.
Astonishingly, European nations have not yet sealed their borders to West Africa, even though Saudi Arabia has already done so, forbidding would-be pilgrims to the annual Muslim Hajj from entering that country.