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In Riots Sparked By An Ebola Quarantine, A Teen Is Shot And Dies

A teenage boy should not die from gunshot wounds to his legs.

But that was the fate of 16-year-old Shacki Kamara.

This week, people in the neighborhood of West Point were angry that they'd been quarantined — a government step to prevent the spread of Ebola to other parts of Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia. On Wednesday, crowds of protesters tried to get past the checkpoints.

Soldiers opened fire. Kamara was wounded.

The teen was screaming, crying for help. Photographer Tommy Trenchard was on the scene, covering the story for NPR. He took a picture of Kamara, then tried to get an ambulance to come. Trenchard called people he knew in Monrovia. They told him that even before Ebola struck, the country's health care system was a shambles. They didn't know how to find an ambulance.

After a half-hour, an army medic arrived to treat the wounded teenager.

He was eventually taken to Redemption Hospital, where he died yesterday. Dr. Mohammed Sankoh, the hospital's medical director, told The New York Times that the cause of death was severe loss of blood and body fluids.

Liberia's Defense Minister Brownie Samukai had a different perspective. He said, "It was not a bullet that went down there. ... Due to the stampede he fell, and that's how he got wounded."

The people of West Point do not believe the government's story.

Either way, it is clear: A teenage boy should not die from a leg wound. But that's what happened in West Point this week. The story shows how Ebola can claim the lives of Liberians even if they are not infected by the deadly virus.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this post had a different spelling for the shooting victim's name and said he was 15. His family subsequently corrected the spelling and stated that he was 16.

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Corrected: September 5, 2014 at 12:00 AM EDT
Shacki Kamara died not of hypothermic shock, as stated in an earlier version of this post, but of hypovolemic shock, a severe loss of blood and other fluids that can cause organs to stop functioning.
Marc Silver
Marc Silver, who edits NPR's global health blog, has been a reporter and editor for the Baltimore Jewish Times, U.S. News & World Report and National Geographic. He is the author of Breast Cancer Husband: How to Help Your Wife (and Yourself) During Diagnosis, Treatment and Beyond and co-author, with his daughter, Maya Silver, of My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks: Real-Life Advice From Real-Life Teens. The NPR story he co-wrote with Rebecca Davis and Viola Kosome -- 'No Sex For Fish' — won a Sigma Delta Chi award for online reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists.