Sierra Leone is Under Ebola Lockdown, With People Confined to Their Homes

It seems to just keep getting worse. The Ebola outbreak that's been plaguing multiple West African states for the past several months has been a harrowing crash-course in the dangers of poor disease control, and it's moved some countries to take controversial or radical steps to try to halt its spread. Liberia, for example, placed a quarantine on the massively impoverished West Point slum, sealing away a chunk of the poorest citizens of its capitol city, Monrovia. And in recent days, another stricken nation has taken extreme steps — Sierra Leone is under lockdown over the Ebola outbreak, confining its citizens to their homes for three days, and according to BBC Africa, the government "hinted" it might be extended even further.

Basically, things were becoming so calamitous there, to say nothing of the crisis more broadly — Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have all been hit devastatingly hard, while Nigeria has had a relatively tiny smattering of cases — that the government of Sierra Leone opted to shut down the country for a while to get a handle on things. It's understandably provoked some anger on the part of the citizenry, like any three-day home confinement order would, but if it's successful in isolating and decreasing Ebola infections and deaths, you'd have to imagine it'll be seen as a fair tradeoff. And thus far, the government is saying that things went well — Stephen Gaojia, head of the country's Emergency Operations Centre, suggested the success might make officials decide to extend the lockdown, according to Sky News.

There is a very strong possibility it will be extended. Even though the exercise has been a huge success so far, it has not been concluded in some metropolitan cities like Freetown and Kenema.

Strictly by the numbers, it would seem that Sierra Leone has been handling treatments for Ebola-sufferers more successfully than most. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) last updated Thursday, Sierra Leone has the second-highest number of Ebola cases in West Africa — Liberia has the highest — but notably, their rates of death from Ebola are far lower than seen in the rest of the outbreak. Writ large, this recent rash of Ebola has been killing infected patients at a rate of 49 percent, but in Sierra Leone, that figure stands at just 33 percent.

According to Sky News, the government reported finding 92 bodies during the lockdown sweep, and managed to identify 56 different, previously unknown Ebola infections. While the virus isn't airborne, it's highly transmittable through bodily fluids, which makes it particularly dangerous to have human remains lying around. People living in close quarters with their families is also a hotbed for possible transmission — Ebola is a hemorrhagic fever which can cause diarrhea and vomiting blood, so anyone in close proximity to somebody in its full throes is in a significant amount of risk.