Aid Groups Run Out of Room for Ebola Patients

Doctors Without Borders and other aid groups are comparing the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to a war zone as the official death toll surpasses 1,000. Yet large as that number is, many West Africans fear taking sick relatives to the hospitals, which means the death toll might be higher.

“Our challenge now is to quarantine the area to successfully break the transmission,” said Tarnue Karbbar with the Plan International aid group in Guinea.

Karbbar said his group faces people too scared to attend the treatment centers regularly. In Voinjama, Guinea, people buried 75 victims before any team arrived to quarantine or properly bury the dead. Those handling bodies of Ebola victims are at high risk for contracting the disease.

All aid groups stress the importance of hygiene and isolating the sick. Gregory Hartl, spokesman for the World Health Organization, said hospital and clinic beds have begun to fill too quickly, far faster than they would should the official death and contamination rates be accurate. From AP:

There are 40 beds at a treatment center that Doctors Without Borders — known as MSF — recently took over in one quarantined county in Liberia but 137 people have flocked there, packing the hallways until they can be sorted into those who are infected and those are not, said MSF’s international president, Joanne Liu.

[Liberia assistant health minister Tolbert] Nyenswah described a similar situation in a treatment center in Liberia’s capital of Monrovia: in a ward meant to accommodate between 20 and 25 people, 80 are now crowded in. Another treatment center with 120 beds is expected to open Saturday just outside Monrovia.

In Monrovia, Liberia, three people received ZMapp, the experimental Ebola drug famously offered to two American patients currently in recovery. It is still unknown if the drug actually defeats Ebola, but the World Health Organization officially declared its use on patients in West Africa ethical, and the company producing it sent its last manufactured doses to Liberia.