Sierra Leone quarantines a million people

In an effort to stop Ebola from spreading further, Sierra Leone in West Africa has ordered the immediate quarantine of 3 of its districts, an…

Thursday morning, Sierra Leone began a quarantine of more than 1 million people as the lethal Ebola outbreak continues to rage in West Africa. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)

In an effort to stop Ebola from spreading further, Sierra Leone in West Africa has ordered the immediate quarantine of 3 of its districts, an area encompassing 12 tribal chiefdoms. The move will impact more than 1 million people, preventing them from traveling outside of the designated area.

The move is a drastic but necessary, as hospitals and treatment centers with Ebola patients are overflowing and sometimes forced to turn people away. The move places 14 of the country’s districts under curfew–nearly a third of the population.

SEE ALSO: Why are people with Ebola being denied treatment?

The quarantine was announced by President Ernest Bai Koroma on Wednesday in a national televised announcement.

“The isolation of districts and chiefdoms will definitely pose great difficulty but the lives of everyone and the survival of our country takes precedence over these difficulties,” Koroma said.”These are trying moments for everyone in the country.”

In addition to the new quarantine districts, Koroma indicated corridors for travel to and from non-quarantined areas had been established but would only operate between 9:00am and 5:00pm, but The Ministry of Health and Sanitation and the emergency operation center will establish additional holding centers in the quarantined chiefdoms.

Ebola outbreak in Africa

This photo provided by the CDC shows an ebola Virus. U.S. health officials are monitoring the Ebola outbreak in Africa but say the risk of the deadly germ spreading to the United States is remote. (AP Photo/CDC)

The British charity Street Child, told The Guardian the unexpected travel shutdowns pose a threat of their own–that of starvation. Street /child and other charities serving the quarantine areas were not prepared to have their access routes suddenly restricted.

“We were not prepare for the quarantine overnight. The areas being quarantined are really poor communities, most people live on 50p a day,” its country director, Kelfa Kargbo, told The Guardian. “We need more help from the World Food Programme, but more than that we need a distribution network to be built to make sure the food gets in and gets in regularly to the starving people. I am expecting starvation to show in three or four weeks unless this is addressed.”

Starvation would further complicate medical care for Ebola victims; malnutrition makes the body more susceptible to infection and could speed up the disease process. Thus far, the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates more than 6,000 people have contracted Ebola, and of those, nearly half have died.

The goal is to isolate and identify people with Ebola who might not realize they have it, all the while preventing people carrying the virus from crossing into new territories. Sierra Leone officials have been conducting door-to-door searches, looking for possible Ebola victims who have not yet sought treatment.

The searches have uncovered more than 300 suspected cases in a three-day period alone.

SEE ALSO: How can you improve your chances of surviving Ebola?

Health officials in West Africa say the quarantine is expected to have some effectiveness; however, if more global aid is not received, the Ebola virus is expected to spread regardless of containment practices.

“As we speak, America is deploying our doctors and scientists – supported by our military – to help contain the outbreak of Ebola and pursue new treatments,” President Obama told the assembly in a speech. “But we need a broader effort to stop a disease that could kill hundreds of thousands, inflict horrific suffering, destabilize economies and move rapidly across borders.”

If effective measures aren’t taken, WHO estimates more than 1 million people could contract Ebola before the epidemic has run its course.

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