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​Ebola fear causes stigma against West Africans in U.S.

The fear of the Ebola virus is leading to prejudice and stigma of the West African community in the United States
West Africans in U.S. stigmatized over Ebola fears 02:27

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The biggest Ebola outbreak ever continues to grow. New reports show more than 13,000 people have been infected with the virus, almost all of them in West Africa.

Nearly 5,000 people have died, only one of them in the United States.

That's not stopping fear of Ebola from causing stigma against West Africans living in the U.S.

The West African market on New York's Staten Island where Oretha Bestman-Yates has shopped for more than 20 years is dwindling amid Ebola fears. CBS News

Oretha Bestman-Yates has shopped at a West African market on New York's Staten Island for more than 20 years.

A few months ago there were 22 vendors there -- today there are just five, and the market is empty. The reason?

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"Because they're scared of Ebola virus," Bestman-Yates says.

Bestman-Yates said she's watched West African business suffer since the outbreak of Ebola in Liberia.

"It is devastating," she says. "It's something we can't even explain ourselves, we just try to hold our heads up high."

Most in this community have lost friends and family to the epidemic overseas. No one on Staten Island has Ebola, but that hasn't stopped the slurs against West Africans in this neighborhood.

"People don't want to talk with you, you walk in the street and they yell out, 'African, go back to Africa with your Ebola.'"

Bestman-Yates says it happens all the time, and it's not just New York.

African students in NYC allegedly bullied amid Ebola scare 01:52

In Connecticut, a family is suing the school district for banning their daughter from class after she returned from Nigeria.

In the Bronx, two middle school boys originally from Senegal, Africa, said students have been harassing them with Ebola taunts.

And at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, officials have stopped accepting applications from African students at all.

For Bestman-Yates, the discrimination is as distressing as the news from Liberia.

"We don't know where the virus came from, we don't know how it was created. We just pray that people look at us as people and don't just stigmatize people because they come from that part of the world," she says.

Bestman-Yates is fighting the Ebola stigma with words, handing out pamphlets on the disease and talks to people on the street. She believes the fear surrounding Ebola can be diminished with education.

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