Thieves in Guinea have stolen a cooler containing the blood samples of suspected Ebola patients. The robbers took the samples after attacking a vehicle on a remote highway Thursday. Health officials are urging the robbers not to open the cooler and to return it immediately.
The four-wheel drive vehicle was traveling from Kankan in upper Guinea to an Ebola treatment center in Gueckedou, in the southeast, when it was attacked by well-armed robbers.
The thieves intimidated people on board the vehicle and stole a number of items, including cash and the box containing the blood samples.
Dr. Mumeya Barrie, who heads a Guinean committee coordinating the fight against Ebola, says the samples were due to be tested for the deadly virus.
He says armed robbers effectively attacked a vehicle on which there were blood samples of suspected Ebola patients due to be processed at a laboratory in Geuckedou. He says it is after the laboratory tests that we will know whether the blood contains the Ebola virus or not.
This is the first time such an incident has been reported since the Ebola outbreak began in Guinea in December of last year.
Guinea is still struggling to contain the spread of Ebola and to trace people who came into contact with those infected by the virus.
Mumeya warned the thieves against touching the blood samples and urged them to immediately return the cooler.
He says the blood is already dangerous and if they manipulate it will be extremely dangerous to them and to their communities. He says measures have been taken by the Ebola coordinating committee to reinforce the security of their vehicles carrying blood samples. He says now they have put in place strong security measures and this will be reinforced in the days to come.
Guinea's government has announced an intensive manhunt for the thieves and warned that anyone caught with the stolen cooler will face the full force of the law. Gendarmes on motorbikes have begun patrolling the highway, looking for the robbers.