Bandits Steal Ebola Blood Samples From Red Cross, Pose Infection Threat

Justin Streight - Author
By

Nov. 23 2014, Updated 6:59 p.m. ET

Bandits in Guinea may have bitten off more than they can chew when they robbed a Red Cross courier carrying Ebola infected blood samples.

According to Al Jazeera, the Red Cross courier was on a 265 kilometer (about 160 mile) trip from Kankan prefecture to a test center in southern Gueckedou. He was carrying important items: blood samples, ones that were suspected of carrying the deadly Ebola virus. For one particular leg of the journey, the transporter had to take a taxi cab with nine other people.

That’s when trouble struck. Thieves arrived on motorbikes to rob the cab. They took mobile phones, money, jewelry, and Ebola-infected blood samples.

Who should be more concerned, the thieves or the other people in the taxi cab?

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As the Guardian reported, spokesperson Faya Etienne Tolno explained that the Guinea Red Cross does not have enough vehicles for this kind of transport. The samples came from a single person and they were tightly sealed to prevent any deadly leaks on the windy, rural road.

As for the thieves, it doesn’t seem like they were targeting the Ebola blood samples specifically, according to Tolno.

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“We don’t understand why they stole the blood sample. Perhaps they thought there was cash hidden in the flask.”

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Still, their lives are in terrible danger if they open the blood samples and they do turn out to be infected. Dr. Barry Moumie talked to the AP about the situation.

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“We have informed the security services. If these thieves handle this blood, it will be dangerous. I can assure you, however, that the sample-transportation procedures will now be strengthened to avoid such disappointments.”

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The robbery illustrates some of the obstacles facing Western Africa in fighting the Ebola epidemic. If the Red Cross had proper equipment, like transport vehicles, odds are the blood samples would have reached their destination and one more risk could have been prevented.

Ebola is transmitted from person to person through bodily fluids like blood. The epidemic has killed more than 5,000 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the U.S. has been helping the affected areas. In a recent move, the U.S. granted a special status for people visiting from the region that will allow them to stay in America for up to 18 months, rather then sending them back into harm’s way.

No one was injured in the Ebola blood sample robbery, which, as Al Jazeera reports, took place on a road known for thefts.

[Image Credit: CDC Global/Wikimedia Commons]

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