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Ebola Victims Gone, Not Forgotten

Getty Images / John Moore

As the Ebola epidemic spreads in West Africa, families of the victims are facing a confusing and heartbreaking situation.

When Julius Prout, a nurse working in Monrovia, Liberia, was infected with Ebola, he was taken into quarantine at a local clinic. Not long after, Prout's family was informed of his death and cremation, according to The Associated Press.

After holding a traditional funeral for him, his family were shocked to receive a phone call from Prout, alive and well and fully recovered from his infection. The security guard who had informed the family of the death had been mistaken, and Prout was unable to contact them during treatment.

Prout's story has a happy ending, but many more stories just like his end in confusion and heartbreak for families unable to say goodbye or even bury their loved ones. AP Correspondent Krista Larson recently spoke to families of people infected in Monrovia who have been admitted to clinics. Quarantine measures make it impossible to communicate with the infected, as cell phones are usually burned along with the patient's clothes. Families attempt to pass messages through security guards and other employees, but they have no guarantee that their loved ones will ever receive them.

When patients die, clinics may or may not inform the families, leading to more confusion. Bodies are burned to help contain the virus, and bereaved families are left with nothing of their loved one to bury and no way to say goodbye. As the epidemic continues, this unexpected consequence compounds the tragedy in West Africa for the sick and the survivors.

Follow Larson's reporting on Twitter @klarsonafrica and pass this story on to help keep the memories of these victims alive.