Ebola crisis: Liberia finds 'missing patients'

Ebola awareness campaigners stage a street performances at an event in Monrovia, Liberia - 18 August 2014 Public awareness campaigns are being stepped up in Liberia, where some people believe Ebola is a hoax

Seventeen suspected Ebola patients who went missing in Liberia after a health centre in the capital was attacked have been found, a minister has said.

"They were traced and finally they turned themselves in" at a treatment centre, Lewis Brown told the BBC.

The government had previously denied they were missing.

New UN figures show that 1,229 people have now died since the beginning of this year in the outbreak that has also hit Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria.

Map: Ebola outbreak in West Africa

The World Health Organization (WHO) says there were 84 deaths reported between 14 and 16 August.

Doctors 'improving'

Ebola has no known cure, but the WHO has ruled that untested drugs can be used to treat patients in light of the scale of the current outbreak - the deadliest to date.

It is transmitted by direct contact with the body fluids of an infected person. Initial flu-like symptoms can lead to external haemorrhaging from areas such as eyes and gums, and internal bleeding which can cause organ failure.

A man carries out a girl from an Ebola isolation centre as a mob overruns the facility in the West Point slum on August 16, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. This man took a young girl out of the West Point health facility during the attack
Liberian Police dressed in riot gear deploy at a Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment centre in Monrovia, Liberia (18 August 2014) Security has been stepped up at health centres treating Ebola patients in Liberia

The Liberian information minister said the missing patients were now at the newly expanded treatment unit opened over the weekend at the John F Kennedy Memorial Medical Center in the capital, Monrovia.

Mr Brown also said the health of three Liberian doctors infected with Ebola had improved after they receiving the experimental drug ZMapp.

Two US missionaries, who were flown home for treatment from Liberia, are reportedly recovering from the virus after taking doses of the same medicine.

The drug was also given to a 75-year-old Spanish priest who contracted Ebola in Liberia, but he died in Spain last week.

In Nigeria, which has had four fatal Ebola cases, health officials say five people have now recovered from the virus and been discharged from hospital in Lagos. Another three are still being treated.

'A hoax'

The attack on the quarantine centre, where 37 people were being held in Monrovia's densely populated West Point township, took place on Saturday evening.

There are conflicting reports over what sparked the riot, in which medical supplies were also stolen.

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Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)
A fruit bat is pictured in 2010 at the Amneville zoo in France. Fruit bats are believed to be a major carrier of the Ebola virus but do not show symptoms
  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% - but current outbreak has about 55%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no vaccine or cure
  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
  • Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus' natural host
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Officials said the protesters were unhappy that patients were being taken there from other parts of the capital. Other reports suggested the protesters had believed Ebola was a hoax and wanted to force the centre to close.

The BBC's Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia says there are also reports that the mattresses and linen being used by patients were taken during the attack.

The current outbreak is the deadliest since Ebola was discovered in 1976

In neighbouring Sierra Leone, the agricultural minister has said the outbreak is also having a severe impact on the economy, as 66% of people were farmers and agriculture accounted for 46% of GDP and 25% of all exports.

"We're expecting devastating effects not only on the labour, but we're also talking about farms being abandoned by people running away from the epicentres," Joseph Sam Sesay told the BBC.

Since the outbreak spread to Nigeria in July, when a person infected with Ebola flew from Liberia to Lagos, several airlines have stopped flights to the worst-affected countries.

Kenya's ban on people from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone entering the East African nation comes into force on Wednesday - and Cameroon has closed its land, sea and air borders with Nigeria.

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