Liberian security officers dressed in riot gear, right, control a crowed of people in the West Point area, as the government clamps down on the movement of people to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. Security forces deployed Wednesday to enforce a quarantine around a slum in the Liberian capital, stepping up the government’s fight to stop the spread of Ebola and unnerving residents. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
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MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Calm returned Thursday to the slum of West Point in Liberia’s capital that was sealed off in the government’s desperate attempt to halt the spread of Ebola, a day after clashes erupted between residents and troops and police who were enforcing the quarantine.
In the United States, at least one of the two American aid workers who were infected with the Ebola virus in Liberia was to be discharged Thursday from an Atlanta hospital, according to a spokeswoman for the aid group he was working for. Both had received ZMapp, an experimental and unproven treatment for Ebola.
Three Liberians currently receiving the same treatment in Liberia — the first and so far only Africans to get the drug — were showing “very positive signs of recovery,” Liberia’s information ministry said earlier this week. A Spaniard who had contracted Ebola and also received the treatment died. The drug supply is now exhausted, the U.S. manufacturer has said.
Officials from the World Health Organization were visiting two hospitals in Monrovia on Thursday that are treating Ebola patients. The two treatment centers are struggling to keep up with the influx of patients. Liberia is being hit especially hard by the dreaded virus that has killed more than 1,300 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria.
A nationwide nighttime curfew, first imposed countryside in Liberia on Wednesday night, appeared to have been put in place without major incident.
The current outbreak in West Africa is the largest ever, and officials have said that treatment centers, especially in Liberia, are filling up faster than new ones can be opened or expanded. This leaves the sick packing hallways, potentially infecting more people.
Ebola is transmitted by direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is sick and showing symptoms. To stop its spread, experts say, the sick should be isolated and not have any contact with the healthy. Overcrowded treatment centers, a reluctance on the part of sick people to seek medical care and burial practices that involve touching the dead have helped fuel the disease’s spread in West Africa.
With at least 2,473 people sickened, this outbreak now has more recorded cases than in the previous two-dozen outbreaks combined.
Several counties and districts in Sierra Leone and Liberia have been cordoned off, and there are concerns this is slowing the supply of food and other goods to these areas. The World Food Program is preparing to feed 1 million people affected by such travel restrictions.
Many residents of West Point, located on a peninsula in the seaside capital, are fearful they’ll be cut off from food since many market traders are stuck behind the barricades. Food prices were already rising Wednesday.
Several airlines have also suspended flights to the affected countries, despite the World Health Organization’s advice that Ebola is unlikely to spread through air travel. Guinea’s president, Alpha Conde, met airline representatives and foreign diplomats on Wednesday to reassure them that Guinea is screening passengers leaving the country for fever and other symptoms, in line with WHO recommendations.
Associated Press writer Boubacar Diallo in Conakry, Guinea, contributed to this report.