Ebola crisis: Sierra Leone law makes hiding patients illegal

A health worker offers water to a woman with Ebola in Kenema, Sierra Leone, in July 2014. World Health Organization experts say it will take months to bring the outbreak under control

Sierra Leone's parliament has passed a new law making it a criminal offence to shelter Ebola patients.

Those caught face up to two years in prison, the justice minister said. The measure still needs to be approved by the president.

Earlier, Ivory Coast closed its land borders to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus on to its territory.

The World Health Organization says the measures - taken by other countries as well - are counterproductive.

So far 1,427 people have died - more than in any other Ebola outbreak.

A man with a placard writing "Ebola go away" in Abidjan on 19 August. Already more people have died in this outbreak of Ebola than in any other

The number of cases now stands at 2,615. The speed and extent of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa are "unprecedented", according to the WHO.

Elsewhere:

line
WHO says Ebola outbreak underestimated because:
  • Many families keep sick people at home, as there is no cure
  • Many health centres have closed because medical staff have fled
  • In Liberia, treatment centres are overwhelmed
  • The existence of "shadow-zones", areas where there are reports of Ebola but which cannot be accessed because of local resistance or lack of staff

Read more from the WHO

line
Shadow zones

Ivory Coast, the largest economy in francophone West Africa, had previously imposed a ban on flights to and from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

"Faced with new outbreak sites and the reactivation of old sites... the Ivorian government decides to close its land borders with sister republics Guinea and Liberia," it said in a statement on Friday.

A Liberian policeman, right, speaks with residents of the West Point in Monrovia Food was distributed in the West Point area of Monrovia, where some residents have expressed anger over a quarantine
Members at the French NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without borders) Elwa hospital in Monrovia The WHO has said more medical resources are needed to halt the spread of the virus

Gabon, Senegal, Cameroon and South Africa have taken similar measures.

The WHO says travel bans do not work, and that what is needed is more doctors and officials to help trace those infected with Ebola, as well as more mobile laboratories.

On Friday, the WHO's Dr Keiji Fukuda expressed concern over so-called "shadow zones", areas which cannot be reached and where patients are not being detected.

The organisation confirmed 142 new cases of the disease had been reported since 19 August, as well as 77 deaths.

Speaking at a news conference in the Liberian capital Monrovia, Dr Fukuda said combating the disease would take "several months of hard work".

"We haven't seen an Ebola outbreak covering towns, rural areas so quickly and over such a wide area," he added.

Ebola has no known cure but some affected people have recovered after being given an experimental drug, ZMapp. However, supplies are now exhausted.

On Thursday, two US doctors were discharged from hospital after being given the drug, while three Liberian medics are also recovering well.

line
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)
A fruit bat is pictured in 2010 at the Amneville zoo in France. Fruit bats are believed to be a major carrier of the Ebola virus but do not show symptoms
  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% - but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 55%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no vaccine or cure
  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
  • Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus's natural host
line

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Africa stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • SpiderWeb of wonder

    BBC Earth takes a unique journey inside the body of a giant tarantula

Programmes

  • A person taking a photo of fireworks on a smartphoneClick Watch

    A look at the latest gadgets which could make it easier to take the perfect night-time picture

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.