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Sierra Leone makes hiding Ebola patients illegal

Members of a UNICEF-supported social mobilization team walk on a street, carrying posters with information on the symptoms of Ebola and best practices to help prevent its spread, in Freetown, Sierra Leone,August 2014. REUTERS/Issa Davies/UNICEF/Handout via Reuters

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone: Sierra Leone's parliament has approved a law imposing prison terms of up to two years for anyone caught hiding an Ebola patient.

Lawmaker Ansumana Jaiah Kaikai said the measure passed Friday was needed because some families had resisted seeking medical treatment for sick relatives.

The World Health Organization says Ebola has infected at least 910 people in Sierra Leone, killing at least 392. A total of 2,615 infections and 1,427 deaths have been recorded across West Africa.

The U.N. health agency said Friday the overall toll has been underestimated because families hide patients, fearing high fatality rates and the stigma that comes with a positive diagnosis.

Widespread mistrust of health workers has made it difficult to access some areas.

President Ernest Bai Koroma is expected to sign the new law.

 

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