The Ebola virus, which has killed over 1,400 people across four countries in West Africa, is expected to spread farther in the coming months, according to two volunteers from the Hong Kong Red Cross who returned from a tour to the worst-hit region in Liberia.
Clinical psychologist Eliza Cheung Yee-lai and medical doctor May Yeung Pui-shan believe the infection cases and the death toll that have been reported from Ebola have been underestimated, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported Wednesday
A humanitarian crisis is on hand in Liberia, where 200 doctors are taking care of Ebola patients in a nation of 4 million people, they were quoted as saying after a visit to the West African nation.
What is worse is that fear has gripped the country. As some medical staff panic and try to leave the country, it could paralyze the medical system and leave more patients unattended, they said.
Yeung and Cheung went to Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, last month to train up local Red Cross volunteers and staff to provide public health and psychological support, with a view to raising the awareness on the deadly Ebola disease and self-protection measures.
Sixty healthcare workers were reported to have died after being infected with the virus as Yeung and Cheung reached their destination.
The infection risk was seriously underestimated, endangering people’s lives.
“In Bong province, 80 percent of hospitals and clinics were closed, leading to the death of an injured victim of a car accident,” Cheung said, adding that suspected Ebola patients or confirmed cases would often face abandonment by their families and friends.
“The most terrifying is not the virus itself but the fear, misunderstanding and discrimination in the society that has made it a humanitarian crisis,” Cheung noted.
Meanwhile, the prices of key food-grains are said to have risen three-fold in a few weeks in the region as most freighter routes were closed, leaving only one in service.
As of last Wednesday, Liberia has uncovered 1,082 Ebola infection cases, with 624 deaths. Local medical personnel remain under-geared in terms of protective clothing. The Red Cross aims to raise HK$87 million in funds to fight the epidemic.
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