Africa

Ebola crisis: Liberia 'to prosecute man in US hospital'

  • 2 October 2014
  • From the section Africa
Health agents checking passengers leaving Liberia at the Roberts International Airport near Monrovia in August
Image caption Passengers are checked before leaving Monrovia and have to fill in a questionnaire about Ebola

The Liberian authorities say they will prosecute the man diagnosed with Ebola in the US, accusing him of lying over his contact with an infected relative.

When he left the country last month, Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan filled in a questionnaire saying that none of his relatives were sick.

But Liberia's assistant health minister said he had taken a sick relative to a clinic in a wheelbarrow.

Mr Duncan is in a serious condition in a Dallas hospital.

His is the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed on US soil, where as many as 100 people are being checked for exposure to Ebola.

More than 3,330 people have died in the Ebola outbreak in four West African countries.

'Speedy recovery'

The BBC's Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, says the prosecution announcement was made at the weekly Ebola update news conference, which is attended by numerous government officials and was dominated by the case of Mr Duncan.

Image caption Only health workers are allowed to collect people suspected to be ill with Ebola in Liberia
Image caption Liberia has been worst-affected by the outbreak with 1,998 deaths recorded in the latest UN figures

"We wish him a speedy recovery; we await his arrival in Liberia" to face prosecution, Binyah Kesselly, the chairman of the board of directors of the Liberia Airport Authority, said.

Deputy Information Minister Isaac Jackson confirmed that Mr Duncan would be prosecuted as he "lied under oath about his Ebola status".

Before the briefing, Mr Kesselly told the BBC that Mr Duncan had answered "no" to all the questions on the Ebola form, which includes one about whether the traveller has any relatives sick with Ebola.

Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah explained at the briefing that he was investigating Mr Duncan's movements before he left Liberia on 19 September.

Media captionA British nurse told a UK conference on Thursday of "the horror and misery" of death from Ebola in Sierra Leone

He said Mr Duncan works as a driver in Liberia for Save-Way Cargo, a subsidiary of the international courier service FedEx, and lives in the Paynesville 72nd Community suburb of Monrovia.

Eric Vaye, a neighbour of Mr Duncan's, was also at the briefing to help with contact tracing, and said that nine people had died of Ebola in the district in recent weeks.

Mr Duncan is alleged to have pushed the wheelbarrow when taking a sick relative to a clinic.

Our reporter says this is banned and people are obliged to phone a hotline number to ensure that patients are collected by health workers so further contact with sick people is avoided.

Mr Nyenswah said it was "less likely" that Mr Duncan had passed on the disease when in Liberia because he was not showing signs before he left.

According to the latest UN figures, there have been 7,178 confirmed Ebola cases, with Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea suffering the most.

Leading charity Save the Children has warned that Ebola was spreading at a "terrifying rate", with the number of new recorded cases doubling every few weeks.

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has called for urgent decisive action including more financial aid, doctors and nurses, from the international community at a conference in London.


Ebola virus disease (EVD)

  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% - but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 70%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no proven 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

Ebola virus: Busting the myths

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