Some health care workers in Liberia defied calls for a strike on Monday and turned up for work at hospitals amid the worst Ebola outbreak in history.
In view of the danger of their work, members of the National Health Workers Association are demanding higher monthly hazard pay. The association has more than 10,000 members, though the health ministry says only about 1,000 of those are employed at sites receiving Ebola patients.
Some nurses were turning up for work Monday, according to Gobee Logan, a doctor at a government hospital in Tubmanburg, 40 miles from the capital of Monrovia.
The call to strike was for nurses, physician assistants, lab technicians and other health workers, but not doctors.
Ebola is believed to have killed more than 4,000 people in West Africa, and Liberia has recorded the highest death toll.
Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, like blood and vomit, putting health workers at particular risk.
With many treatment centers overflowing with patients, those providing care and with often inadequate protective gear have become infected in large numbers. The latest World Health Organization toll said about 400 health workers have contracted the disease, nearly half of those in Liberia.
The hardest hit countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea had too few health workers even before the outbreak began, and infections among health workers has only further hampered their ability to respond.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) called the Ebola outbreak "the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times" on Monday but also said that economic disruptions can be curbed if people are adequately informed to prevent irrational moves to dodge infection.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, citing World Bank figures, said 90 percent of economic costs of any outbreak "come from irrational and disorganized efforts of the public to avoid infection."
Staffers of the global health organization "are very well aware that fear of infection has spread around the world much faster than the virus," Chan said in a statement read out to a regional health conference in the Philippine capital, Manila.
"We are seeing, right now, how this virus can disrupt economies and societies around the world," she said, but added that adequately educating the public was a "good defense strategy" and would allow governments to prevent economic disruptions.
The Associated Press