(NaturalNews) The West African country of Liberia has shuttered most of its borders after it was discovered that the deadly Ebola virus had spread to two of the region's largest cities. An Agence France-Presse (AFP) report explains that both Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, and Lagos in Nigeria have reported cases of Ebola, prompting Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to take immediate action to protect the people of her country.
With at least 1,200 confirmed cases of the disease, which has already killed more than 900 people, officials worry that the situation has spiraled out of control now that Ebola is being detected in major cities. Previously, Ebola had been primarily confined to rural areas, suggesting that its spread has now reached a magnitude never before seen in the history of the world.
"All borders of Liberia will be closed with the exception of major entry points," announced Sirleaf in a recent statement. "At these entry points, preventive and testing centres will be established. A new travel policy by the Liberia Airport Authority covering inspection and testing of all outgoing and incoming passengers will be strictly observed."
Panic ensues as government quarantines urban centers
In past Ebola outbreaks, emergency workers had a much easier time containing the disease, because remote villages could simply be quarantined for a few weeks to stop its spread. But now that Ebola is hitting major urban centers throughout Africa, and possibly even throughout the world, authorities are realizing that this is a whole different animal.
According to reports, the Liberian government recently instituted a ban on all public gatherings in cities, barring demonstrations, events and other social affairs indefinitely. Soldiers have also been deployed in many areas to maintain tight quarantines and prevent social unrest, as many people are starting to panic over what appears to be the most serious Ebola outbreak ever.
"People are now extremely cautious of how they attend parties and other social functions, although funerals are still largely being attended," stated social analyst Ronald Cole to AFP.
Locals lash out against disease testing centers, claim they are spreading Ebola
The public is also reeling over government restrictions on travel that include checkpoints and disease testing centers in some of the hardest-hit areas. After 700 troops were deployed in Sierra Leone to set up roadblocks, for instance, area residents reportedly attacked medical personnel, believing the testing centers to be a cause of Ebola spread.
Many experts are also confounded by these and other containment measures, which they say are largely ineffective at stymieing the outbreak. At best, these martial law accoutrements give the impression that things are under control, helping to prevent civil unrest and widespread public panic. At the same time, they give a false sense of security that could make the problem worse.
"Border controls alone give a false sense of security," stated David Heymann, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, as quoted by The Guardian. "You cannot keep Ebola out using only that because people can still get to places where there aren't controls."
"The best defence is properly understanding how it is spread, stopping it spreading further, and making sure health workers are able to self protect with up-to-par hospital controls."
According to CBC News, a doctor working at Liberia's largest hospital recently died after falling ill with Ebola. Several American aid workers have also contracted the virus, as have health officials in both Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. As of this writing, the official death count, according to CNN, is 932 people.