A strike by burial teams in Sierra Leone has left corpses of Ebola victims abandoned in the capital, as health officials in Spain look into whether an assisting nurse may have picked the virus by touching her face with contaminated protective gloves.
The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation reported on Wednesday that bodies of Ebola victims were left at homes and on the streets of Freetown because members of burial teams staged a lockout for not being paid. The dead bodies of Ebola victims are highly contagious.
Deputy health minister Madina Rahman said on a radio show that the strike had been “resolved,” though organisers could not immediately be reached to confirm it was over.
Rahman said a one-week backlog for hazard pay, that was deposited in the bank but never reached the burial teams, was behind the dispute. He said the health ministry will investigate the delay in payments.
The burial teams make up a total of 600 workers organised in groups of 12, health ministry spokesman Sidie Yahya Tunis said.
In neighbouring Liberia, health workers said they will go on strike if their demands of $700 as monthly salaries and safety equipment are not met by the end of the week.
‘Touched her face’
The World Health Organisation says Ebola is believed to have killed more than 600 people in Sierra Leone, where there have been more than 2,100 confirmed cases. More than 3,400 people have been killed by the outbreak in West Africa, which has hit Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia hardest.
Meanwhile in Spain, a nurse who was the first person known to have contracted the deadly virus outside of Africa, said she recalled touching her face with gloves she wore while treating Ebola victims who were repatriated to Madrid.
Spanish authorities are investigating how 40-year-old Teresa Romero, who was tested positive for the disease on Monday, has contracted the virus as fear of a breakout in Spain and Europe grows.
Romero is now quarantined along with three other Spaniards while 22 others are being monitored closely for symptoms that include fever, diarrhoea and vomiting. The nurse was part of a medical team that attended to a Spanish missionary who died of Ebola on September 25, and is believed to have entered his room twice prior to his death.
Dr. German Ramirez of the Carlos III hospital said Romero believes she touched her face with the glove after her first entry.
Spanish animal rights activists scuffled with police as they blocked the way to Romero’s apartment where medics sought to take away her dog. The pet, mixed breed dog named Excalibur, will be killed after a court order was issued saying “available scientific” information can’t rule out “risk of contagion.”