25 March 2014

Liberia: Ebola Kills Five in Lofa - Health Ministry Alarms

Officials say they are working with international organizations to help curtail the spread of the disease (file photo).

At least five people have died in Voinjama, Lofa County in northern Liberia from the deadly Ebola virus, which reportedly broke out in neighboring Guinea recently.

Confirming the deaths, authorities at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare said here on Monday, that the deadly Ebola virus has hit Liberia.

Deputy Health Minister and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bernice Dahn told a special news conference at the Information Ministry Monday that the disease was reportedly spreading along the Guinean border with Liberia, specifically in the communities and towns close to the Guinean towns of Guekedou, Nzerekore, Kissidougou and Macenta.

"As of this morning, March 24, 2014, six cases have been reported of which five have already died-four female adults and one male child.

One of the suspected cases, a female child, is currently under treatment. All the six suspected cases came from Guinea for treatment in hospitals in foya and Zorzor Districts, Lofa County," Dr. Dahn told journalists.

According to her, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and partners have already dispatched an assessment team to Lofa County since Friday, March 21, noting that the team was already investigating the situation, tracing contacts, collecting blood samples and sensitizing local health authorities on the disease.

Dr. Dahn further explained that the assessment team took with them protective equipment, including face masks, gloves and goggles to protect health workers in affected facilities and also advise all residents of Liberia to follow the necessary essential measures to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

He said some of the country's health facilities are closer and more accessible to Guineans living on the border than those in big Guinean cities. The Liberian Health Minister also urged people to avoid close contact with people, such as shaking hands and kissing. She added that cross-border trade is huge between the two countries, which share some cultural and linguistic ties.

The minister further stated that people can be exposed to the Ebola virus from direct physical contacts with body fluids, including blood, saliva, stool, urine, sweat of an infected person and soiled linen used by a patient, saying it can be spread through contacts with objects like needles contaminated with infected secretion.

Last weekend, the BBC quoted medical charity and health Ministry officials in Guinea as reporting that 87 cases of the Ebola virus, with 61 deaths. According to the World Health Organization or WHO, outbreaks of Ebola occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests.

It is said to be the first time Ebola has struck Guinea and the Mano river Union basin, with recent outbreaks thousands of miles away in Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

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