A WIDESPREAD belief in witchcraft is hampering efforts to halt the Ebola virus from spreading, a British doctor has claimed.
Benjamin Black, who is volunteering with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Sierra Leone, told The Telegraph that some people in West Africa are not seeking medical treatment because they blame sorcerers for the recent deaths, and not the disease.
In the interview, Black said: “There is a section of population here who simply don’t believe Ebola is real, they think it is witchcraft and so they don’t come to the treatment centres.
“Sometimes, even those who turn up at clinics with symptoms of the disease will be resistant to the idea that they have it. They will say ‘yes, people in my family have died already, but this is witchcraft rather than Ebola’.”
The virus has claimed 728 lives in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since February, and kills up to 90 per cent of those infected.
More than 1,200 cases have so far been reported in the three affected nations, with 224 deaths in Sierra Leone, 129 in Liberia, and 319 in Guinea, where the outbreak is thought to have first begun.
Among the fatalities in Sierra Leone has been Sheik Umar Khan, a doctor who was playing a leading part in the fight against the disease.
Fears that West Africa’s Ebola outbreak might spread to other countries around the world were heightened after it emerged that an American had died from the disease in the Nigerian capital Lagos, after travelling from Liberia – one of the worst-affected countries. Experts have warned that the virus could be spread further afield by infected people travelling by plane.