Ebola outbreak: Burial team attacked in Sierra Leone amid 3-day lockdown

Health workers in Sierra Leone have come under attack while trying to bury the bodies of five Ebola victims east of the capital, a police official said.

Likely the largest lockdown in recent history, WHO says

Health workers in Sierra Leone have come under attack while trying to bury the bodies of five Ebola victims east of the capital, a police official said.

Sgt. Edward Momoh Brima Lahai said there was a confrontation Saturday between a group of youths and the burial team in the Waterloo district.

A witness told state television the burial team initially had to abandon the five bodies in the street and flee. Lahai said the burial was successfully completed after police reinforcements arrived.

Sierra Leone is in the middle of an unprecedented three-day lockdown intended to stop the spread of Ebola.

Stephen Gauja, co-ordinator of an emergency operations centre in the capital, said Saturday that residents were "largely compliant" with health care workers and volunteers who distributed soap and information about the deadly disease.

The government is confining its 6 million people to their homes through Sunday in a bid to stem the biggest Ebola outbreak in history.

'A lot of stigma'

Red Cross worker Katherine Mueller, who is on her second deployment to the country, said that "education is the key" when it comes to the outbreak.

"We're doing contact tracing and we have teams of volunteers. When someone is suspected of having Ebola, these teams will follow up with people who may have come in contact with this person and monitor them for 21 days," Mueller told CBC News on Saturday.

Health worker volunteers distribute bars of soap and information about Ebola in Freetown. (Michael Duff/Associated Press)

She added that the Red Cross is also doing work in communities to help them welcome back survivors.

"There is a lot of stigma attached to this disease," she noted. "People don't want them back. They think they're still contagious."

Mueller said she suffered nightmares after her first deployment in Africa in July.  

"I saw a 37-year-old man, he was brought to our treatment centre and he was in the ambulance. He was alive when he arrived," she recalled.

"[When] our team was fully geared up to receive him, it was two minutes later. His legs just went rigid and he was gone. It was the first time I had ever seen anybody pass away in front of me."

Mueller said aid workers like her have access to counselling and special phone numbers if they feel in distress.

The World Health Organization says the deadly virus has killed more than 560 people in Sierra Leone and more than 2,600 across West Africa.

Several health-care workers complained that supply kits were delivered late, preventing their teams from starting on time.

With files from CBC News


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