In yet another violent illustration of the danger health workers face as they scramble to control the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, six Red Cross volunteers in Guinea were attacked Tuesday while trying to collect the body of a person who is believed to have died from the disease.
One of the volunteers went to the hospital with a neck injury following the attack in Forecariah, a town in western Guinea, and has since been released, said Benoit Carpentier, spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
"It was during a normal activity, which they run every day," Carpentier said. "They were called by the authorities to come and collect a body in the community. They got a green light to go and when they were about to leave the place, after preparing the body and heading to the cemetery, they were attacked by a group of men."
Resident Mariam Barr told the Associated Press that relatives of the dead person started the attack. The men vandalized the volunteers' cars, and the situation escalated, eventually leading to a crowd throwing rocks at the regional health office, according to AP. Carpentier couldn't confirm the identity of the attackers nor reports of a mob congregating at the health office.
The attack came less than a week after the bodies of eight people, including health workers disseminating information about Ebola, were found dead in a village latrine in a remote part of southeastern Guinea. The eight, including three journalists, had been "killed in cold blood by the villagers" on Sept. 16, a Guinean government spokesman told the BBC. They were found two days later.
A local Red Cross official was seriously injured by armed men in the Sept. 16 attack.
Carpentier said health workers have been targeted as they try to battle misinformation, fear and doubts over the virus, which have persisted since the outbreak began in a Guinea border town, Guéckédou.
“We have to convince communities that we’re on their side and everything that has been done there is to help and try to tackle the disease; it’s not an easy task," he said. "We are trying to shift from doing massive social mobilization, which has been done from the beginning of the outbreak … to more of what we call community engagement. That means really going into the community -- every single community -- and talking to people."
But the communities throughout Guinea have not necessarily been receptive to the message -- or, more accurately, the messengers.
The Ebola outbreak has brought health workers and other outsiders in terrifying moon suits into villages in remote, conflict-burdened parts of the country, and their presence has been met with violence on multiple occasions.
Last month, in a market in Nzerekore, residents panicked when Red Cross workers began spraying disinfectant after a funeral.
"Ebola is a lie!” they shouted. There were reports of gunshots.
"A rumor, which was totally false, spread that we had sprayed the market in order to transmit the virus to locals," Youssouf Traore, president of the Guinean Red Cross, said at the time, according to the BBC.
In July, the Red Cross suspended its Ebola operations in southeast Guinea "for safety reasons," after locals brandishing knives surrounded a Red Cross vehicle.
According to the World Health Organization, 632 people have died from Ebola in Guinea through Sept. 20.
Abby Phillip contributed to this report.