Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman and you're tuned to The World. Imagine you're from the West African nation of Liberia and just as you're putting decade-old memories behind you of running in fear from gun-toting child soldiers, along comes another menace - ebola. An outbreak of the highly infectious disease has already claimed more than 700 lives in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. And concern about the disease is also spreading. Today, the US Center for Disease Control warned Americans not to travel to those three West African nations. In a few minutes, we'll hear more on all of this from one leading health officials in the US, Dr. Anthony Fauci. But first we're going to keep our focus on Liberia. The government there has taken extraordinary measures to curb the spread of ebola. That includes shutting down schools and government ministries and putting some areas under quarantine. Lewis Brown is Liberia's Minister of Information.
Lewis Brown: We do need all of the help we can get. We need hands, we need expertise, we need equipment and yes, we need money.
Werman: Are you worried about how fast that's all going to materialize because dozens of local health workers there, including Liberia's top ebola doctor, have died treating patients. Where will you turn for medical assistance in the meantime?
Brown: We're looking inward and we're looking outward. We need counseling. Some of our health care workers are frightened. You can understand that not only is this unprecedented but we simply have never had this kind of attack on our way of life before.
Werman: It is the worst ebola outbreak in the history of the disease and there are reports we're hearing from Monrovia that one isolation unit is so crowded with cases that 20 new patients had to be treated in their homes. Is that accurate?
Brown: Well, yes. This virus has reached, against our worst fears, urban and very populated areas. That is why we've had to take some very tough and difficult measures and will not hesitate to continue those measures.
Werman: But if people are being treated in their homes, how can you possibly monitor everyone who even comes near these treatment sites?
Brown: That's the challenge. The alternative is to have them go to these facilities that are getting overcrowded, because really this disease is overwhelming.
Werman: Liberians are also reacting pretty negatively to some controversial measures, like a halt on traditional funeral practices. Can Liberians change their way of life so dramatically, so quickly?
Brown: We do not expect that suddenly people would change those behaviors, but change they must, because that is the surest way of transmitting the disease, to tamper with bodily fluids of affected individuals, even though they may be loved ones. That is why we're even considering measures including cremation.
Werman: One other thing that a lot of people are reacting to is the suggestion that Libera quarantine entire communities. Some might say it's essential in a crisis like this. Others say it's just medieval. What is the position of the Liberian government about quarantines?
Brown: We have a saying in our neck of the wood - "To cure a bad ailment, you need a bad remedy." We do not like some of the things we have to do but certainly we have to do them. Whether they be deemed medieval, whether they be deemed archaic and ancient, we simply must do it to continue to protect lives. If we have to even protect loved ones from loved ones, that has to be a duty we have to do. We've had to endure a devastating civil war and here we are, working as we try to do to recover and then we get hit by this dreadful virus.
Werman: It's interesting that you brought up the civil war in Liberia. I was just wondering how the mood compares right now to that of the mood when rebels were storming the country?
Brown: Nothing is like war but this is war by extension. People have seen people die and what is worse is that your loved one gets ill and you cannot touch. We understand that but it's a war that we had. At least you knew where you run, you knew probably where to hide. But now you're running even from people you love.
Werman: Lewis Brown, Liberia's Minister of Information, thank you for your time sir.
Brown: Thank you very much.