MONROVIA, Liberia - Police in Liberia have confirmed that protesters attacked a quarantine centre for suspected Ebola patients in the capital Monrovia late Saturday, forcing at least 20 suspected Ebola patients to flee and taking bloodstained bedding and other infected items from the camp.
The incident occurred in the densely populated West Point township, home to around 50,000 people, with medical officials describing the attack as a disaster that could see Ebola spread into the over-crowded general population of the area.
"This is one of the stupidest things I have ever seen in my life", a local police officer told journalists, adding that blood-stained mattresses, beddings and medical equipment were taken from the centre.
There are conflicting reports over whether the 20 patients who fled the centre were suffering from Ebola, most reports suggest they were only being monitored, while at least one local report has said they had tested positive for the deadly disease, one of the most virulent in the world.
Authorities have expressed severe concerns that the whole of the West Point area could now be at risk of infection, a development that would heap considerable strain on Liberia's healthcare system which has already been devastated by the outbreak.
The protesters were apparently unhappy that patients were being brought in from other parts of the capital, according to Tolbert Nyenswah, Liberia's assistant health minister, while local reports suggested the looters were trying to prove that Ebola was a western-orchestrated hoax.
Nyenswah said the centre was set up to observe suspected cases of Ebola before transferring the patients to a main treatment centre if they tested positive for the disease.
The Ebola outbreak of 2014 is the worst on record; it began in Guinea in February and has since spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
While Guinea appears to be bringing the spread of the disease under control, Liberia has battled to contain it due in large part to ignorance about the virus and the general populations' mistrust of western doctors.
The death toll from the disease in 2014 now stands at more than 1,145, according to the WHO, which added that 2,127 suspected cases have been reported.