The Inquirer (Monrovia)

25 March 2014

Liberia: Ebola Hits Liberia

Photo: Boakai M. Fofana/AllAfrica
A sign at the fruit section of a grocery store urging customers to wear gloves, as Liberians worry about the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

Authorities at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare have announced that at least six cases of an outbreak of the deadly hemorrhagic fever-Ebola have been reported in Lofa County, with 3 persons already dead from the virus. As of yesterday, March 24, 2014, five persons have been pronounced dead from the disease. Out of the 6 persons reportedly in contact with the disease, 2 went back to Guinea and died there, 2 persons died in Foya district, another 1 died in Zorzor district while the last person is undergoing treatment in Zorzor.

"The dead persons include four female adults and one male child and one of the suspected cases, a female child is under treatment and all of the suspected cases came from Guinea for treatment in Liberia."

At a brief press conference held yesterday, Liberia's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Bernice Dahn, told reporters that all the six persons came from towns, communities to Guekedou, Nzerekore, Kissidougou and Macenta in Guinea for treatment in hospitals in Foya and Zorzor Districts in Lofa County.

She told the Health Minister, Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale at the Ministry of Information that Ebola that has already been reported in Guinea has no treatment, vaccine but can be prevented.

She warned Liberians that if they experience any of the symptoms like sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain or sore throat followed by vomiting, such cases should be immediately reported to the nearest health center.

The Chief Medical Officer explained that persons suspected to be suffering from Ebola should be taken to health facilities and persons associated with the victims should avoid physical contacts such as handshakes, kissing; no contact with animals and ensure that drinking water is treated with chlorine properly.

Commenting on how the virus is spread, Dr. Dahn indicated that the natural reservoir of the virus is unknown and it is not always clear how the virus first appears in humans. Usually, she added the first person gets infected through contact with an infected animal.

"People can be exposed to Ebola virus from direct physical contact with body fluids like blood, saliva, stool, urine, sweat etc. The disease is reported to be spreading along the border with Liberia, specifically in towns closer to neighboring Guinea," Dahn said.

Dr. Dahn and Dr. Gwenigale along with some partners have already dispatched an assessment team to Lofa County since Friday March 21, 2014. The team is already investigating the situation, tracing contacts, collecting blood samples and sensitizing local health authorities on the disease. The health authorities told reporters that the assessment team took with them protective equipment such as face masks, gloves and goggles to protect health workers in the affected facilities.

The two health officials emphasized that a national task force on health emergency has been re-activated to coordinate the response, mobilize resources and expertise to prevent further spread of the disease.

"Persons who have died of Ebola must be handled using strong protective wear and buried immediately. The Health Ministry is calling on all media partners, traditional and religious leaders, and community leaders, the general public to work closely with the ministry and partners to share key messages with their communities to prevent the spread of the disease," Dr. Dahn asserted.

Already, 58 persons have been confirmed dead after coming in contact with the deadly disease Ebola in the Republic of Guinea. Medical aid group Doctors Without Borders(MSF) said in a statement it would strengthen its team of 24 doctors, nurses, logisticians and experts in hygiene and sanitation already in Guinea. According to AFP, the organization has set up isolation units for suspected cases in the southern region of Nzerekore and is looking for people who may have had contact with the infection.

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