Why would robbers steal Ebola blood samples?

Blood sample tube with Ebola virus positive

Reports that vials containing blood samples from Ebola infected patients were recently stolen by highway bandits further underscore the importance of public infrastructure to health systems. The samples were being transported in a commercial taxi on a road known for banditry to a laboratory facility 265 kilometers away.

This unfortunate event occurred in the West African country of Guinea where the Red Cross lamented a shortage of vehicles. The situation was compounded by inadequate laboratory support and by insecurityas highlighted by the International Peace Institute.

But the fact remains that the Ebola, and other hemorrhagic fever viruses, are potential agents for bioterrorism and as such theinternational community should be doing a lot more to ensure the safe conveyance and disposal of such hazardous material.

That said, how do we quickly address the political, economic and social factors that create room for the theft of Ebola blood samples?

This piece was originally published by the University of Michigan Risk Science Center.


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