Sierra Leone's health ministry says it has ended a 3-day lockdown aimed at stemming the Ebola epidemic. It says teams briefed more than one million households and buried scores of bodies to slow further contagion.
Frustrated Sierra Leoneans were on Monday more free to move after 6 million residents spent the weekend indoors under curfew. The ministry said 75 percent of households had been contacted by outreach teams, who would continue health education efforts in "hot spots."
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sarian Kamara said the lockdown had helped to locate 22 new cases of infection, which, if not discovered, would have "greatly increased transmission" of the virus that can cause fatal bleeding.
National emergency team head Stephen Gaojia said the lockdown's objectives "have largely been met." More than 120 people had come forward and were being tested. Of these, 56 showed signs of infection, he said.
Food shortage side-effect
Poorer residents complained that the lockdown had left them unable to earn money to buy food. Food handouts in slums had been insufficient, they said.
Officials said only one incident marred the lockdown: On Friday, health workers were attacked but managed later to bury five bodies, under police guard.
Western Africa's outbreak has claimed more than 2,600 lives in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, raising fears of economic fallout.
Liberia opens treatment center
Liberian medical authorities opened a new 150-bed treatment center on Sunday in the Bushrod Island district of its capital Monrovia.
Four ambulances arrived almost immediately, full of sick patients. By the end of October, authorities hope to have 1,000 beds for Ebola patients at 17 locations.
Liberian Finance Minister Amara Konneh urged international donors to "move with speed."
The efforts coincided with the arrival of US cargo aircraft at Liberia's international airport, bringing the first members of an eventual 3,000-strong US mission.
Last week, Washington said military engineers would build new Ebola treatment centers in affected areas after a World Health Organization (WHO) warning that thousands of new cases were imminent in Liberia.
A health officer in Bomi County northwest of Monrovia Gabriel Gorbee Logan said some residents were still "not listening to the rules" to stay away from infected bodies.
"There are still ongoing burial rites -- rituals that citizens are carrying out. They're in the habit of bathing dead bodies because tradition demands it," Logan said.
On Saturday, officials in Guinea said five doctors who performed a Caesarean birth on an infected woman had become infected.
National epidemic coordinator Dr. Sakoba Keita said the incident underscored how vulnerable health workers were to Ebola.
Since March, the hemorrhagic fever disease, first identified in central Africa in 1976, has infected at least 5,357 people in West Africa.
Spain evacuates missionary doctor
Spain on Sunday used a military medical plane to evacuate a veteran missionary and medic to Madrid. Manuel Garcia Viejo ran a hospital in the western Sierra Leonean town of Lunsar.
Garcia Viejo is the second Spanish priest diagnosed with Ebola. Miguel Pajares died last month after being brought back to Spain from Liberia.
ipj/lw (AFP, Reuters, AP)