The Slatest

Doctors Threatened With Violence as Distrust Compounds West African Ebola Outbreak

A hospital entrance in Guinea.

Photo by Saliou Samb/Reuters

Widespread distrust of health workers in rural areas is making an Ebola outbreak that has already killed at least 670 people in West Africa even more dangerous, the New York Times reports today:

Workers and officials, blamed by panicked populations for spreading the virus, have been threatened with knives, stones and machetes, their vehicles sometimes surrounded by hostile mobs. Log barriers across narrow dirt roads block medical teams from reaching villages where the virus is suspected. Sick and dead villagers, cut off from help, are infecting others.

“This is very unusual, that we are not trusted,” said Marc Poncin, the emergency coordinator in Guinea for Doctors Without Borders, the main group fighting the disease here. “We’re not stopping the epidemic.”

The Doctors Without Borders organization—which, it’s worth remembering, specializes in working in chaotic crisis conditions—has classified 12 Guinean villages as too dangerous to access, the Times says. Meanwhile, Liberia has closed many of its border crossings in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus, which has infected two American health workers in the country in recent days.