(Reuters) – Governments and health agencies trying to contain the world’s deadliest ever Ebola epidemic in West Africa fear the contagion could be worse than reported because suspicious locals are chasing away health workers and shunning treatment.
From Guinea, where the four-month-old outbreak claimed the first of more than 500 lives, to Sierra Leone, scores of patients are hiding away, believing hospitalization is a “death sentence”.
In Guinea’s southeastern Forest Region some terrified villagers are shutting off their communities to medical workers, even blocking roads and downing bridges.
Over the border in Liberia’s Lofa County, health workers trying to screen two communities for the deadly disease were chased off by locals armed with cutlasses, knives, and stones, according to an internal U.N. report seen by Reuters.
In eastern Sierra Leone, police had to fire tear gas to stop relatives trying to recover bodies of Ebola victims for family burial – a serious contagion risk – amid popular suspicions the cadavers might be used for experiments or macabre rituals.
“We are seeing a lot of mistrust, intimidation and hostility from part of the population,” Marc Poncin, emergency coordinator for medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Guinea, told Reuters.