Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown, Expects Rise in Cases

Officials in Sierra Leone say the number of reported Ebola cases and deaths there is expected to rise, as the country ends a three-day lockdown aimed at stopping the worst-ever outbreak of the disease.

The government had ordered its 6 million people to stay home Friday, Saturday and Sunday as teams went door-to-door trying to locate hidden patients and educate others on how to avoid contracting Ebola.

Sierra Leone’s chief medical officer, Brima Kargbo, told VOA that authorities told people not to hide family members infected with Ebola or to keep corpses in their homes.

“Once we go to a home, we educate people, then they would tell us here we have a person who is ill. And that person is then asked whether he or she is linked to any Ebola-related patient, and once that has been established he or she is taken to a holding center, blood samples are taken and tested, and if they are positive they remain there in the holding center,” said Kargbo.

He said the lockdown turned up dozens of new people who tested positive, and that there are many reasons people have not sought treatment on their own, including fear and a belief that the virus is not real.

Ebola has infected more than 5,300 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea this year, and killed more than 2,600.

Sierra Leone’s Health Ministry reported it reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes during the lockdown.

Officials said the outreach would continue in communities that have been identified as hot spots across the country.

The operation appears to have gone smoothly, except for an incident Saturday when young people attacked workers trying to bury bodies of Ebola victims near the capital, Freetown. The attackers dispersed after reinforcements arrived to protect the burial team.

The United States has committed $175 million to help combat the outbreak and is sending 3,000 troops to the region to build field hospitals and provide logistical aid.

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