The AP is reporting that the Ebola crisis in Liberia is causing serious stress for the country’s first responders, who are lacking safety equipment to prevent their own infection. Many patients are also refusing to go to a proper facility, creating more risk for family members to catch the deadly disease.
Estimates put the Ebola death toll at more than 1800 people in Liberia. Those numbers might increase, since health care workers are finding themselves without personal protection equipment (PPE). Without PPE, the workers, especially first responders, risk getting Ebola themselves.
The result has added to the stigma that has developed against health workers. So many Ebola victims are health professionals that communities have started to fear having them around. Other people in West Africa believe that the emergency workers are actually part of an insidious plot to kill off the infected. The unfounded fear has lead to the workers being called the “Ebola people.” The rumors have been so strong that some people have become violent against health workers fighting Ebola.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the bodies of eight health workers were found outside of a village of Guinea, killed by the village locals because of fears they came to spread Ebola.
That fear leads to another safety risk, patients staying home to treat their Ebola. Some patients simply don’t trust the medical system enough to leave for treatment.
Yet, at the same time, many hospitals have been overrun, with doctors unable to treat all of the Ebola patients in West Africa. As Eric Johnson, who works for Doctors Without Borders said,
“On Friday, there were three patients who came in cars who died. A lot of people say, ‘I’m dying, I’m dying!’ It’s very difficult to send somebody home. Some people say, ‘I’ll sleep here.’ I feel bad, bad, because you see, there’s no space.”
All of these problems may come back to hit other countries. In the U.S., an Ebola patient was recently diagnosed in Dallas, Texas, the first positive Ebola diagnosis to take place out of Africa. The man recently traveled from Liberia and officials are still backtracking his contacts to measure the extent of the risk. The man was initially sent home with antibiotics, which may have led to more people being infected.
An estimated 1,400 U.S. troops will also soon be deploying to accompany another 200 defense department personnel. All U.S. forces will be equipped with advanced safety gear, but the rampant infections still pose a serious risk.
If first responders in Liberia and other countries don’t get the safety equipment and trust they deserve, Ebola may truly become a worldwide crisis.
[Image: West African Hospital via Leasmhar/Wikimedia Commons]