Bodies of Ebola victims are being left in the street by terrified relatives who fear that keeping the bodies will mean they are contaminated, Liberia Information minister has warned.
Graphic photos of locals skirting the body of a man killed by the deadly virus have emerged from Liberia, where the outbreak has prompted the country to close its borders.
Information Minister Lewis Brown said his government had put limitations on freedom of movement, and is delivering food and medical supplies in the hope that people will not leave the worst affected areas.
But many are suspicious of treatment centres, especially Ebola isolation wards, he told Reuters. "They are therefore removing the bodies from their homes and are putting them out in the street," he said. "They're exposing themselves to the risk of being contaminated."
Troops were deployed on Monday night to enforce the restriction of movement on the affected communities. "We hope it will not require excessive force, but we have to do whatever we can to restrict the movement of people out of affected areas," Brown said.
This outbreak is now officially the worst in history, with the number of those dead from the disease having risen to at least 932, according to the World Health Organisation. The figures include a man who died in Saudi Arabia, suspected to have been suffering from Ebola.
Panic is spreading in Nigeria after a Lagos female doctor caught the disease, and five other health workers in that country are now infected. The disease spread to the nation via one passenger, Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian-American consultant, who flew in from the affected area.
For two days, Sawyer is said to have insisted he had malaria, even though his sister had recently died from Ebola. He died a few days later.
The disease can be fatal in up to 90% of cases, but this particular strain has been causing the death of between 60%-70% of people infected. There is no cure on the market.
But two Americans, Dr Kent Brantly and missionary Nancy Writebol, who were infected in Liberia, have received a treatment of untested Zmapp serum, developed by a San Diego pharmaceutical company.
Bernice Dahn, Liberia's chief medical officer, told the Wall Street Journal that word is beginning to spread that the Americans have a cure. "This is something that has made our job most difficult," she said. "The population here is asking: 'You said there was no cure for Ebola, but the Americans are curing it?'"
A spokesman for the US government said the treatment was arranged by the charity Samaritan's Purse, which sent Dr Brantly to Liberia. The US government's National Institutes of Health gave them contacts, but did not "procure, transport, approve or administer the experimental treatments in Liberia," the official added.