A group of armed men reportedly raided an isolation centre treating Ebola patients in Liberia on Saturday night.
Infected items were stolen from the facility, and over a dozen patients escaped, the Guardian reports. Police restored order by Sunday but fears remain that the break-in will further spread the virus.
The raid happened in West Point township in Monrovia, where a high school was converted into a makeshift clinic to treat Ebola virus patients.
"They broke down the door and looted the place," Rebecca Wesseh, a witness, told the AFP. "The patients have all gone."
Media outlets provided conflicting reports of 17 to over 20 escapees.
"They had all tested positive for Ebola," Health Workers Association of Liberia head George Williams said.
In addition to freeing the quarantined patients, the looters stole mattresses, medical equipment, bed sheets, and other items. Some of the items were stained with blood, vomit, and excrement, reported West Point resident Richard Kieh.
"All between the houses you could see people fleeing with items looted from the patients," a senior police official told the Associated Press. He feared "the whole of West Point will be infected".
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Ebola virus disease, or Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is transmitted by coming into contact with the bodily fluid of an infected person, or touching objects such as needles that have come into contact with infected bodily fluid.
The CDC recommends proper sterilisation of medical equipment, and wearing protective clothing to decrease the chances of infection.
The looters ignored warnings from health officials regarding the disease's deadliness, proclaiming instead that "There's no Ebola" in Liberia. The vandals also accused President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of using the outbreak for financial gain.
Plan Liberia country director Koala Oumarou explained the citizen unrest.
"They are not happy with the way Ebola is being managed and the response that the government is providing," Oumarou said. "It's where the frustration is coming from."
There have been 132 confirmed deaths from Ebola in Liberia, and 148 confirmed Ebola cases. When probable and suspected cases are taken into account, 294 people have died from Ebola in Liberia, and there are 554 total cases.