'We Can't Be Afraid': A Hospital Under Watch After Mali Confirms Second Ebola Case

After a 25-year-old nurse tested positive for the virus in Mali's capital, the clinic she worked at remains closed and under quarantined with police on guard.

by Melodie Bouchaud
Nov 13 2014, 7:30pm

Photo by AP/Baba Ahmed

More than 100 people who had come in contact with Mali's first case of Ebola wrapped up their 21-day quarantine period on Tuesday, but the success was quickly overshadowed by news on the same day from government officials that a second person had tested positive for the virus in the country's capital city, Bamako. 

A 25-year-old nurse at the city's Pasteur Clinic died of Ebola at the treatment center and is thought to have been infected by an elderly imam from Guinea who received care, and later died, at the hospital at the end of October. While the imam had Ebola-like symptoms, he was not tested for the hemorrhagic fever that has claimed more than 5,000 lives in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia during the ongoing outbreak. Instead, his body was taken to a mosque in Bamako for a ritual washing ceremony and then transported to Guinea, where he was buried in the village of Kourémalé.

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There is no link between the Bamako cases and Mali's first Ebola infection, which occurred in a two-year-old girl who had traveled into Mali from Guinea and died in October. In total, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported four confirmed or probable fatal cases of Ebola in the country. The nurse, imam, and the two-year-old girl were included in the tally, along with someone thought to have visited the Guinean man while he was being treated at the clinic.

The Pasteur Clinic, which caters mostly to wealthy Malians and is the default clinic for expatriates, is now closed and under quarantine with police standing on guard. A doctor who came into contact with the nurse has been placed in isolation and is suspected of having the virus. Among the patients quarantined at the clinic are 20 members of the United Nations peacekeeping forces who were wounded during a mission in the north of the country.

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Speaking to French radio station RFI, Ben Baba, a cardiologist and the director of the Pasteur Clinic, explained that hospital patients had been left to fend for themselves. "Unfortunately, due to the fear and hysteria of the staff and of the nurses, many […] have left. No one wants to treat them, people are scared. There is widespread hysteria," he told the station.

"Of course, people are worried." Dramane Maiga, the hospital's deputy manager, told VICE News. "But we can't be afraid. We are giving them the correct information, and above all, we are trying not to be dramatic. We can easily beat this outbreak if we follow a few basic precautions."

Since the two deaths, the Pasteur Clinic has come under fire for accepting a Guinean patient without first testing him for Ebola. Maiga told VICE News that the patient had been admitted to the hospital for an unrelated illness. According to the AFP, the imam was being treated for kidney failure, a complication that can occur during the late-stages Ebola.

Maiga outlined the hospital's quarantine protocol, saying that "patients are quarantined at home, and are not required to stay within the hospital walls. They go there regularly to be monitored, to have their temperature checked, and to have any symptoms examined. The staff is also quarantined, and is monitored with the same frequency."

Speaking about the hospital's capabilities and efforts going forward, Maiga said, "we are not too badly equipped. We have to be conscientious, [we have] to take all the preventive measures." 

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