MONROVIA, Liberia: People who were being screened for Ebola when they fled a health center during looting have turned themselves into a hospital, a Liberian official said Tuesday.
The patients fled when an Ebola holding facility was ransacked in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, Saturday night, raising fears that the deadly virus might spread into the densely populated slum surrounding it. Information Minister Lewis Brown said Tuesday that the last 17 people who were missing have now turned themselves in to a treatment center at a major hospital in the capital.
The people who fled have not yet been confirmed to have Ebola; they were in the holding center because they were at risk of having the disease. Brown said they are now being tested.
"They were traced and finally they turned themselves in at the JFK" hospital, Brown told The Associated Press.
During the looting, residents of the West Point slum stole bloody sheets and mattresses, which could spread the disease further. It is not clear where those items are.
The raid was the latest setback in the struggle to contain the outbreak, which the World Health Organization said Tuesday has killed more than 1,200 people since it began in December 2013. More than 2,200 have been sickened, according to the U.N. health agency's latest numbers.
Authorities have had difficulty persuading the sick to seek treatment, relatives have sometimes taken their loved ones away from health centers and mobs have occasionally attacked health workers.
In an effort to stem the spread of Ebola, which has touched Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, officials have imposed quarantines and travel restrictions for the sick and those in contact with them, sometimes shutting off whole villages and counties.
Those restrictions are limiting access to food and other basic necessities, said the WHO. The U.N. World Food Program has said that it is preparing to deliver food to 1 million people over the next three months.
"I think now there is a high vigilance in all countries," Fadela Chaib, a WHO spokeswoman told reporters in Geneva. "I can't remember the last time we fed 1 million people in a quarantine situation."