Reports of suspected and confirmed Ebola patients going missing continue to fill the news this weekend with the Business Insider reporting more escapes in Liberia and the Hindustantimes reporting a missing engineer in India who was flagged by a fever scanner while entering the country. There have already been several reports of runaways during the last few days which will without doubt raise fears among the general public.
It is important to keep in mind that many of the suspected cases are likely false alarms. Airport screening techniques cannot verify the type of infection a passenger has, only that the patient has a fever and may be ill. With the current outbreak many airports have begun to monitor their entry points more closely and are, as a precaution, isolating and testing any passengers that have a fever or other potential symptoms.
In some cases confirmed Ebola patients are refusing to cooperate with treatment protocols creating a far more terrifying situation. A confirmed Ebola patient moving around a town or city could spell disaster and as such governments are deploying teams of experts to manage local fears as well recover skeptical patients which in itself creates panic within affected areas. The image of a trained medical team in biohazard suits escorted by military personnel entering a small village or town is certainly not going to provide comfort to the local community even if the intentions are good.
In many of the current outbreak regions there is an inherent fear of western medicine fueled by the historical legacy within these regions. That, coupled with severe challenges in access to education and other communications has made it difficult for governments within the affected areas to spread information about proper management to avoid an epidemic. However in one instance, Uganda, early education had a positive effect but critics have pointed a finger at other governments for not acting soon enough.