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Liberian Official: Ebola Misinformation Hampering Efforts to Tackle Outbreak

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Widespread misinformation is hampering efforts to stop the spread of Ebola, Franklin Siakor, the Junior Senator for Bong County, and member of the Senate's Committee on Planning and Economic Affairs, currently coordinating efforts to tackle the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, told RIA Novosti Monday.

EDINBURGH, September 22 (RIA Novosti), Mark Hirst – Widespread misinformation is hampering efforts to stop the spread of Ebola, Franklin Siakor, the former Senator for Bong County, and former member of the Senate's Committee on Planning and Economic Affairs, currently coordinating efforts to tackle the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, told RIA Novosti Monday.

"There is widespread misinformation that government and partners are getting money in the name of the Ebola fight and therefore doing things to increase the death rate so the funds can continue to flow," Siakor told RIA Novosti Monday.

Some of the false rumors claimed that the screening of a health information film, showing how local people can help prevent the spread of Ebola, was being used as a distraction so that Government officials could poison nearby wells, Siakor said.

"We learned that some young men were spreading rumors amongst the villagers of Sawilor that the disease usually breaks out whenever the Ebola film is shown to the people," Siakor stated. "The villagers were suspicious that our team was going to use the film to distract the people while some of its members go around poisoning wells."

According to Siakor, work continues locally to combat the outbreak, but that not all the beds at the local treatment unit were being used because medical staff were undergoing additional training to ensure their own safety.

"Save the Children UK has completed the construction of an Ebola Treatment Centre that has been constructed near the Phebe Hospital near Gbarnga, Bong County," Siakor said.

"Doctors and nurses have re-opened the Phebe Hospital. But yesterday I got a call from our contact in Fuamah District informing me that an Ebola outbreak was reported in one of the remote villages," Siakor told RIA Novosti.

"The International Medical Corps, managing the Emergency Treatment Unit which is currently treating 15 patients, do not want to fill the 50 beds (the capacity) because the local staff they have just trained are still learning basic things that if not done properly could jeopardise their own safety," Siakor added.

Siakor's comments come as Liberian Information Minister, Lewis Brown, warned the epidemic threatened to "collapse" the West African states of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

"People need to understand, what we are dealing with has the potential to collapse our three countries," Brown told the Independent newspaper Sunday.

"Liberia was in its 11th year of peace. We experienced, because of our war, a 90 per cent collapse in the productive sector of our economy, we were rebuilding and our health infrastructure was not what it should have been. We were just bringing back hope and life when we were struck by Ebola. It is having terrible consequences for every aspect of our national existence," Brown added.

The Ebola death toll in West Africa has risen to more than 2,600 since the epidemic started in February, according to the latest WHO estimates.

Cases of Ebola have been registered in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and Senegal. A separate outbreak, unrelated to the one in West Africa, is taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Ebola virus is transmitted through direct contact with the blood, body fluids or tissue of infected animals or people. There is no officially approved medication for the disease, and experts claim prevention is the only cure. Several countries, including Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Japan are currently working on vaccines.

Tags:
health, desinformation, Ebola virus disease (EVD), Liberia
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