Mob attacks Ebola treatment centre in Guinea as suspected cases reach Mali

MSF facility in Guinea forced to close after attackers blame it for deadly outbreak

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 April, 2014, 3:20pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 April, 2014, 6:36am

An angry crowd attacked an Ebola treatment centre in Guinea, accusing its staff of bringing the deadly disease to the town, Medecins Sans Frontieres said, as Mali identified its first suspected cases.

More than 90 people have already died in Guinea and Liberia in what medical charity MSF, or Doctors without Borders, has warned could turn into an unprecedented epidemic in an impoverished region with poor health services.

The outbreak in Guinea is the first time the disease, epidemics of which occur regularly in Central Africa, has appeared in the country. Infected patients initially went undiagnosed for several weeks before tests confirmed Ebola.

News of the outbreak has sent shockwaves through communities with little knowledge of the disease or how it is transmitted, and the suspected cases in Mali have added to fears that it is spreading in West Africa.

MSF spokesman Sam Taylor said the attackers in Macenta, some 425km southeast of the capital Conakry, had accused staff of bringing the disease to the town.

"We have evacuated all our staff and closed the treatment centre," he said.

"We have the full support of the local leaders and we're working with the authorities to try and resolve this problem as quickly as possible so we can start treating people again."

He declined to give further details of the incident, including whether any MSF staff had been hurt in the attack.

In a statement broadcast on state television late on Thursday, Mali's government announced that three people had been placed in quarantine and samples sent off to Atlanta in the United States for tests.

"A high-speed intervention team has been created to follow the evolution of the situation on the ground," the government said. It added that the three suspected victims were showing signs of improvement.

The latest outbreak originated in Guinea two months ago. Neighbouring Sierra Leone has since reported suspected cases while Liberia's government has confirmed the disease's presence there.

Gambia placed two people in quarantine although the country's health ministry has since said tests for the disease proved negative.

Guinea's health ministry said two more suspected victims of the virus had died, bringing its death count to 86.

Liberia also reported three new deaths among its suspected 14 cases, raising its death toll to seven.