Fears now rage the highly infectious disease could spread further as victims fail to grasp the seriousness of the infection.
Two dying Ebola patients were spirited out of a Congo hospital by their relatives on motor-bikes, then taken to a prayer meeting with 50 other people, potentially exposing them all to the deadly virus, a senior aid worker said on Thursday.
Both patients were vomiting and infectious and died hours after the prayer session in the river port city of Mbandaka, Dr. Jean-Clement Cabrol, emergency medical coordinator for Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), said.
“The escape was organized by the families, with six motorcycles as the patients were very ill and couldn’t walk,” Cabrol told a news briefing in Geneva after returning from the affected region.
“They were taken to a prayer room with 50 people to pray. They were found at two in the morning, one of them dead and one was dying. So that’s 50-60 contacts right there. The patients were in the active phase of the disease, vomiting.”
The patients got out of the isolation ward on Monday. Earlier reports did not give details of the escape or where they went afterwards. A third patient who left the ward survived.
Health officials started trying to trace the motorcycle drivers and other people who came into contact with the patients as soon as the escape was reported, Dr. Peter Salama, head of emergency response at the World Health Organization (WHO), told Reuters on Thursday.
“From the moment that they escaped, the (health) ministry, WHO and partners have been following very closely every contact,” he said.
Ebola patients are reportedly relying on spiritual cures rather than trusting advice of doctors, and this is despite thousands of vaccines being deployed the to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
At least 27 people have been killed in the latest outbreak to his Africa.
“We are on the epidemiological knife edge,” Dr. Peter Salama, the World Health Organization’s emergency response chief.
“The next few weeks will really tell if this outbreak is going to expand to urban areas or if we are going to be able to keep it under control.”
The Ebola virus spreads through direct contact with either bodily fluids or objects contaminated by someone ill with the disease.
Three health care workers are already believed to have become infected with the virus.
Aid agencies are battling to persuade sceptical residents about the severity of an outbreak that has killed 27 since April.
Some people are refusing medical care and turning to preachers and prayers to chase away the threat.
Pastors at churches have been encouraging people “pray away” the Ebola instead of receiving vaccines.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
May 24th, 2018