Ebola and Denial in Liberia

"Virus" by ddpavumba at freedigitalphotos.net
“Virus” by ddpavumba at freedigitalphotos.net

Today a clinic in Liberia that cares for Ebola patients was overrun. The looters even stole a bloodied mattress, while patients left the facility. Everyone receiving care at the center had tested positive for Ebola, and seventeen of them had disappeared after this tumult. According to Elise Zoker and Caroline Chen’s piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, one of the attackers said that they did not believe in “this Ebola outbreak.” To many readers, it may seem inconceivable that people would choose to take people infected with a deadly and communicable disease back to their families or neighborhoods. It’s perhaps equally unthinkable that people would walk unprotected through a facility drenched in a virus so deadly that it should be contained in a biohazard level four facility, and then take an item soaked in the blood of an Ebola patient. But such strange behavior is not new; denial has always been a part of major disease outbreaks. When I read this news, it reminded me of the early history of HIV. …