Wednesday, April 24, 2019 | Updated at 8:23 PM ET


Ebola Outbreak: Sierra Leone Nurse Says Virus Is a Ruse Meant to Encourage Cannibalism, Sparks Protests

First Posted: Jul 27, 2014 10:59 AM EDT

As the deadly virus continues to advance through West Africa, many in one stricken nation have begun to protest, not because of their country's handling of the epidemic, but because of a rumor.

Thousands in the city of Kenema in Sierra Leone gathered outside the city's main Ebola treatment facility, according to Reuters. A rumor started to circulate claiming that the virus, which has killed hundreds in the region, was merely a ruse "aimed at carrying out cannibalistic rituals."

A former nurse at the clinic reportedly begun spreading the rumors in a nearby fish market, and local residents began surrounding the clinic, which led to police firing tear gas into the crowd and wounding a 9-year-old boy with a rubber bullet. Assistant Inspector General Alfred Karrow-Kamara said that the protests had quelled by Saturday.

However, BBC News reports that the virus has spread farther than just Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, where it has wreaked havoc. Ebola arrived in Lagos, Nigeria on Tuesday with a Liberian government official. The city of more than 21 million people is Africa's largest, according to the Wall Street Journal. The victim was Patrick Sawyer, a consultant to the Liberian Finance Minister, who had flown to the Nigerian capital.

Sawyer checked into a Lagos hospital and soon died there; however, the doctors managed to isolate him before the virus could spread, according to the Journal. Nigerian officials are currently tracking down those aboard the plane he travelled in, as well as anyone he may have been in contact with but do not believe the virus will spread.

The Los Angeles Times reports that touching an infected person's blood, organs or other bodily fluids and excretions can transmit the virus. There is no cure, and up to 90 percent of those infected die. About 660 people so far have perished in the countries infected.

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