A woman with deadly Ebola virus escapes quarantine, now loose in a city of 1 million

The deadly virus has killed 660 people across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea since February

Published July 25, 2014 6:27PM (EDT)

Scanning electron microscopic image of Ebola virions                                                         (Public Library of Science)
Scanning electron microscopic image of Ebola virions (Public Library of Science)

A woman who tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus is now on the loose in a Sierra Leone city with a population of around 1 million people. The woman had been quarantined in a hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone, when she was "forcibly" removed by her family, according to Reuters.

Officials are appealing to the residents of Freetown to locate this woman. Since February, the Ebola virus has been responsible for the death of 660 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The virus has a 90 percent death rate, according to the World Health Organization, however, this particular outbreak seems to have a 60 percent mortality rate.

Radio announcements pleaded with the public to find this woman.

"Saudatu Koroma of 25 Old Railway Line, Brima Lane, Wellington. She is a positive case and her being out there is a risk to all. We need the public to help us locate her," the announcement said. Reuters explains:

"Koroma, 32, a resident of the densely populated Wellington neighborhood, had been admitted to an isolation ward while blood samples were tested for the virus, Health ministry spokesman Sidi Yahya Tunis said. The results came back on Thursday.

"'The family of the patient stormed the hospital and forcefully removed her and took her away,' Tunis said. "We are searching for her."

"Fighting one of the world's deadliest diseases is straining the region's weak health systems, while a lack of information and suspicion of medical staff has led many to shun treatment."

Sierra Leone has been described as the epicenter of the disease: 454 cases have been recorded there so far, according to USA Today. Dozens of people infected with the virus are unaccounted for in Sierra Leone, according the Reuters.

Earlier this week Sierra Leone's top Ebola doctor, Sheik Umar Khan, was infected with the disease. The 39-year-old doctor has reportedly treated 100 Ebola patients. He is currently being treated by the organization, Doctors Without Borders.

There is currently no vaccine for Ebola. USA Today reports:

"Ebola is transmitted through contact — usually of bodily fluids like vomit, blood, urine or feces. The virus can infect people even after death, often resulting in the infection of morticians or mourners who come in direct contact with the body, according to Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Ebola can also be transmitted through fruit bats or by the consumption of infected bush meat such as primates."


By Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email sgray@salon.com.

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Ebola Freetown Health Sierra Leone West Africa World Health Organization