Three Ebola patients escape Congo quarantine
Health workers in the Congo are racing to contain an outbreak of Ebola after three patients infected with the deadly virus escaped hospital. Anna Bevan reports.
Health workers in the Congo are racing to contain an outbreak of Ebola after three patients infected with the deadly virus escaped hospital.

The patients had been in an isolation ward in the city of Mbandaka, but fled on motorcycles after relatives came to collect them.

One went straight to church, while another went home. They both died the following day.

Reuters’ Aaron Ross is in Dakar.

SOUNDBITE: REUTERS’ AARON ROSS: “This is extremely concerning, especially because they died so shortly after means they were extremely contagious to those around them. Health workers worked very quickly to identify all the contacts, the people they came into contact with, to vaccinate some of those people and further trace any additional contacts that had taken place.”

Congo is a very religious country where people can have more trust in their spiritual leaders than in medical staff.

SOUNDBITE: REUTERS’ AARON ROSS: “Many people attribute what is happening to witchcraft and sorcery, rather than the scientific explanations that medical staff are trying to get across to them. A lot of people, whether to receive spiritual counselling or just to be at home and not find themselves in this often dehumanizing and lonely isolation, they do think about leaving.”

Health officials are particularly concerned by the disease’s presence in Mbandaka, a crowded trading hub upstream from Kinshasa, that’s home to around 10 million people.

They’ve set up this Ebola awareness community group to educate locals about how the disease is transmitted..

But staff say there’s not a lot they can do to prevent patients from leaving hospitals.

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