Lawmaker held over unsafe burial in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone

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Freetown (AFP) – A lawmaker in Sierra Leone was in police custody Monday after being arrested on suspicion of flouting the country’s anti-Ebola laws by washing the body of his dead father, police said.

Alie Badara, from the northern district of Kambia, is accused of taking part in a traditional burial ceremony on Friday last week without informing the authorities of the death, according to Assistant Inspector-General Fuk Daboh.

“He is a lawmaker and he is supposed to have kept within the code of the by-laws. He will be charged (in) court soon,” the officer told reporters in the capital Freetown.

Ebola, one of the deadliest viruses known to man, is spread only through direct contact with the bodily fluids of the recently deceased or an infected person showing symptoms such as fever or vomiting.

People caring for the sick or handling the bodies of people infected with Ebola are particularly at risk.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, 869 health workers have been confirmed to be carrying the virus, and 507 of them have died, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Preventing unsafe burials has been a top priority in the response to the epidemic, and families are supposed to inform the authorities of any death, even if Ebola infection is not suspected.SLeone:

Red Cross experts in biohazard suits are then called to remove bodies from homes to carry out hygenic burials.

According to the latest official figures, the outbreak has infected 27,135 people and killed 11,145, mainly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and neighbouring Liberia, which was declared Ebola-free on May 9.

Experts concede however that the data may be a significant underestimate as it doesn’t account for infections and deaths not brought to the attention of the authorities.

Guinea, where the outbreak began in late 2013, recorded nine new cases in the week to May 24, compared to 27 the week before.

Sierra Leone appears to be heading in the same direction as neighbouring Liberia, however, with the weekly count of new cases dropping from eight to three.