Even as Liberia remains one of the worst-hit nations in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, a break-in at an isolation centre holding up to 30 Ebola patients, many of whom have fled, has led to a major cause of concern for the health authorities.
About 50,000 people in the immediate neighbourhood of the facility are now at risk of contracting the virus that has killed 1,145 people in West Africa in the last few months.
On Saturday, several locals at Monrovia in Liberia attacked the health care facility where Ebola patients were being kept in isolation, reportedly in protest of the quarantine set up there. The residents of the West Point locality were angry about patients carrying the deadly virus being brought to the centre.
"It was an attack from people afraid of Ebola," Liberian National Police spokesman Sam Collins told CNN. "Everybody is afraid."
As the patients who fled are still to be traced, the fear of the disease spreading further, especially in the slum area near which the centre is located, has led to panic in the country which has so far reported more than 400 Ebola-related deaths.
The attackers also looted the centre and ran away with items such as mattresses and medical equipment, which are most likely infected with the virus.
"All between the houses you could see people fleeing with items looted from the patients," a police official told Fox News, saying that he feared that "the whole of West Point will be infected."
The chance of the disease spreading rapidly and afflicting hundreds or people is dangerously high, as the West Point area is a densely packed neighbourhood with at least 50,000 residents, according to Fox News that cited a 2012 survey.
The Ebola virus spreads through contact with the bodily fluids of an affected person or if the virus is present in the environment of the person.
The incident further reflects the inadequate health crisis in Liberia in terms of controlling the spread of the disease.
Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale, Liberia's minister of health and social welfare, told The New York Times that many hospitals were being shut down as patients feared they would contract Ebola there. And with the shortage of protective medical gear, health officials themselves are afraid to attend to patients.
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