Ebola epidemic: house-to-house search in Sierra Leone reveals 358 new cases…”find hundreds of unburied corpses”

Wednesday, September 24, 2014
By Paul Martin

Teams of volunteers also find hundreds of unburied corpses, according to leaked email from senior American diplomat

Lisa O’Carroll
Wednesday 24 September

Door-to-door searches during a three-day curfew in Sierra Leone identified more than 350 suspected new cases of Ebola, according by the top US diplomat in the country.

Charge d’affairs Kathleen Fitzgibbon said teams of volunteers had also discovered 265 corpses, of which 216 have since been been buried, in an email to organisers of the curfew that has been seen by the Guardian.

Fitzgibbon said the home visits had identified a preliminary 358 new suspected cases, with 85 patients sent to treatment centres.

Although there had been some “challenges” during the curfew, which saw the normally chaotic streets of the capital Freetown replaced by eerie silence after the government ordered everyone to stay in doors, it could be seen as the “beginning of the end” of the Ebola epidemic, which has killed more than 2,800 people, primarily in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

“The challenges included the late arrival of some materials, a rumor that the soap was infected with Ebola. Some people fled to the bush to avoid the house-to-house [checks] but came back for the last day,” she said, adding that there had also been a “slow response to pick up corpses”.

American public health institute the Centers for Disease Control has been heavily involved in the emergency response in Sierra Leone and is running the laboratory in Kenema, Sierra Leone’s third biggest city.

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