Twenty-seven-year-old Shurina Rose Wiah, Miss Liberia 2009-2010, died this week after not eating for a week as she suffered from a year of malnutrition and depression following the death of her sister. Despite allegedly not exhibiting any Ebola symptoms, her body is being kept from her mother, Rev. Mother Rosie Dillon-Wiah, as authorities desperately try to contain the spread of Ebola in Monrovia.
Now, Rev. Dillon-Wiah is calling for authorities to bring back her daughter. FrontPageAfrica reports that Rev. Dillon-Wiah did not see any signs of Ebola in her daughter, but she was told that, in contacting an emergency medical team, the team that arrived was a specialized Ebola body removal team, and the body cannot be taken away from where it is currently kept. Rev. Dillion-Wiah explained that her daughter died of low blood pressure after not eating for a week:
She had not eaten for a week, that’s why she was weak and she died. When they came for the body, they asked whether she had sore mouth, I said no. She was not vomiting, not bleeding. Then they told us that we had called the wrong rescue team and they took the body away, but there was no sign of Ebola on Shurina, I swear. … They collected the body and never tested the body. They said we called the wrong team, the burial team when we should have called the testing team first.
Nigerian outlet Ugo notes that reports from other sources have claimed Wiah died of Ebola, particularly a Facebook post from Maria Namiiro, a former Miss Uganda. This has helped cement in authorities’ minds the idea that Wiah did die of Ebola, which has made it increasingly difficult for her mother to convince the government to test the body.
Rev. Dillon-Wiah states that her daughter’s body was never tested for Ebola because the team that came to pick her up was one designated to handle Ebola bodies exclusively and assumed her to be positive for the virus. She hopes to have tests conducted anyway, though it is possible that Wiah’s body has been kept with other Ebola victims and might now test positive even if she did not have the disease while alive.
The incident highlights the confusion surrounding the Ebola virus, and how Ebola panic has the power to take victims from west Africa as much as the virus itself can. The first American to die as a result of the Ebola outbreak, for example, did not die of Ebola. Nathaniel Dennis of Columbia, Maryland, was taken to a hospital in Monrovia after suffering a seizure and experiencing no Ebola symptoms. He was quarantined and treated for the virus anyway, dying shortly thereafter. Family members believe he died because did not receive treatment for what appeared to be a neurological issue. Dennis’s family, like Rev. Dillon-Wiah, was prevented from having access to the body due to fear that the Ebola virus would spread.
The World Health Organization estimates that 2,630 people have died of Ebola since the outbreak began in February, and more than 5,000 have contracted the disease.