Ebola in Liberia: An Epidemic of Rumors

In December 2013, the West African Ebola epidemic began in a village near Guéckédou, a trading town in rural Guinea, but the disease wasn’t identified until February. The Guineans promptly notified health officials in neighboring countries, and in Liberia a team of researchers immediately set out for Lofa County, just over the border from Guéckédou, where a number of mysterious deaths had recently occurred. The Liberians at first assumed the deaths were caused by Lassa fever, a far less deadly disease with symptoms similar to Ebola. Liberia had no lab capable of testing for Ebola then, so the researchers sent some blood samples to France. When the results finally came back in late March showing that Ebola was spreading in Liberia too, “fear grabbed us,” said Tolbert Nyenswah, who now heads the Ebola Task Force in Liberia’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

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