27 March 2014

Liberia: 'No Ebola in Monrovia' - Diagnosis of Suspected Cases Negative

Photo: Chevron
A child receives care at the JFK Hospital in Monrovia (file photo).

Confirmed health authorities in Liberia say there have been no new suspected deaths from the deadly Ebola virus since the admission early this week of four (2 in Guinea, 1 in Foya and 1 in Zorzor) reported cases.

"I can confirm to you that there has been no reported case of Ebola on admission in any of Liberia's hospitals. Samples from suspected persons have been provided to MSF in Guinea for preliminary examination. Further confirmation from the preliminary findings will be provided from Lyon, France," a source who was privy to a discussion with senior administration officials and health authorities Wednesday.

Precautionary measures

FrontPageAfrica reported Wednesday that several businesses have taken precautions since reports surfaced that the deadly virus had crossed over to Liberia from neighboring Guinea. Some stores and supermarkets had their employees wear gloves and hand sanitizers were in short supply at most convenience stores and supermarkets as many consumers heed warnings from the Ministry of Health to wash their hands, avoid handshakes, kissing and sexual activities.

FrontPageAfrica also reported that nurses at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center were in panic mode after a patient came down from Ganta, Nimba County with apparent symptoms of the disease and experiencing bleeding nose. FPA also reported an unconfirmed suspected case of Ebola in the New Kru Town area.

On Wednesday, a senior health official provided the following update. "Preliminary diagnosis of the patient transferred from Ganta to JFK shows that it was not Ebola, the patient is stable and recovering. The diagnosis of the reported case at Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town showed dysentery, no vomiting and no fever. The patient was admitted over a period of four days. There is no national emergency and the borders remain opened."

FPA later learned that the patient who brought down from Ganta came down to Monrovia to see a visiting relative from the U.S. and started bleeding from the nose during a meal. He was rushed to JFK where some medical practitioners, first believed it was a case of Ebola, but later found to not be the case.

Local health authorities scrambling for answers Wednesday sought to allay fears. "Several international media outlets reported Tuesday that a Canadian who came from Liberia and was originally suspected of contracted the Ebola virus has been confirmed not to have Ebola and 27 persons identified to have had contacts with the suspected victims are being closely monitored by health authorities and permitted very minimal contacts with others. There have been no reported case involving health care workers," the source told FPA.

Bernice Dahn, Chief Medical officer told FrontPage Africa Tuesday that the disease is reported to be spreading along the border with Liberia, specifically in the communities and towns close to Guinea towns of Guekedou, Nzerekore, Kissidougou and Macenta. "The team is already investigating the situation, tracing contacts, collecting blood samples and sensitizing local health authorities on the disease," Dahn said. The World Health Organization is said to be in the process of "confirming suspected cases to know what medical practitioners are dealing with.

This coming amid reports that Canadian authorities on Tuesday isolated a man showing symptoms of haemorrhagic fever resembling Ebola after travelling from Liberia. According to the Associated Press, the man who recently travelled to West Africa is seriously ill and being kept in isolation in a Canadian hospital with symptoms of a haemorrhagic fever resembling the Ebola virus. It was later determined that it was not the case. The man had shown symptoms of hemorrhagic fever after arriving in Canada and remains quarantined in a Saskatchewan hospital, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

JFK Case 'Stable, Recovering'

AP quoting Cailin Rodgers, a spokeswoman for Canada's health minister, said lab tests determined the patient does not have the deadly virus that is thought to have caused at least 64 deaths in Liberia and Guinea. "All we know at this point is that we have a person who is critically ill who traveled from a country where these diseases occur," Dr. Denise Werker, Saskatchewan Province's deputy chief medical health officer, said prior to the results of the tests. "There is no risk to the general public at all about this."

On Wednesday, medical practitioners in Liberia explained that suspected cases from Zorzor which was initially reported on Monday involving one death and one admission at Zorzor Curran Hospital, Lofa County: The admitted patient is steadily recovering and a death audit confirmed that the alleged case of death in Zorzor does not meet the case definition of Ebola. Regarding the patient transferred from Ganta to JFK, officials at the hospital told FPA that the preliminary diagnosis ruled out Ebola. "The patient is stable and recovering."

Regarding the case in New Kru Town, administrators at that hospital told FPA that the reported case at Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town the diagnosis has been negative, that the patient experienced dysentery, no vomiting, no fever and has been admitted over a period of 4 days. Ebola is one of the most contagious viral diseases known, often resulting in death. The virus cannot be prevented with a vaccine and is untreatable with medication.

The reported cases heightened interest in the national legislature, where lawmakers greeted the news of suspected Ebola cases in Liberia with a great deal of seriousness with both the Senate and the House of Representatives mandating their Health Committees to closely work with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in tackling the disease.

During separate regular sessions Tuesday, the issue of the outbreak of the disease was discussed with consensus for collaborative efforts with the Executive Branch of government through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in tackling the spread of the disease. Senator Peter Coleman of Grand Kru County who once served as Minister of Health of Liberia told his colleagues to take seriously the current news of the spread of the virus in Liberia by making interventions in the best interest of the population. Senator Coleman also stressed isolation and confinement of affected persons as some of the surest ways of preventing the virus from spreading to others and the need to make a national decision in terms of the provision of funding to the national emergency efforts.

Guinea curbs spread

Many experts have suggested that Liberian authorities quarantine areas where the disease has been reported similarly to what has been done in neighboring Guinea where it was announced Wednesday that the outbreak of deadly Ebola have been stopped from spreading beyond the country's remote southeast, although the number of deaths from suspected infections rose to at least 63. UN agencies and medical charities such as Doctors without Borders (MSF) have scrambled to help Guinea - one of the world's poorest countries - to cope with the virus, amid fears it might spill across borders into neighboring West African nations, Reuters reported Wednesday.

According to Reuters, laboratories have so far only confirmed 13 cases of the disease out of 45 tested. More samples, some of them from Sierra Leone and Liberia, have been sent for examination. "The epidemic is not spreading to other regions," Guinean Health Minister Remy Lamah told Reuters by telephone from the affected area in Guinea's remote Forest region. "Medical equipment has been shipped in," he said. "MSF is helping us to control the outbreak." An MSF spokesperson said the number of suspected infections had risen by just two from Tuesday to 88, according to government figures. Four more people died, however, bringing the death toll to 63.

Since its discovery in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, only around 2,200 cases of Ebola have been recorded. Of those, 1,500 were fatal. The outbreak of mysterious haemorrhagic fever was first detected in Guinea in February. Scientists have since identified it as the most virulent Zaire strain of the Ebola virus. The virus is believed to reside primarily in bats between rare outbreaks in humans. Some experts believe it may have been carried by bats from central Africa, where it is more common.

In an effort to contain the disease, Guinea has banned the sale and consumption of bats and other types of bush meat, and banned public funerals for those killed. Volunteers from the Guinean Red Cross were disinfecting the homes of victims and dealing with infected bodies. The disease incubates for up to three weeks and its symptoms are similar to malaria and cholera, making it difficult to detect in West Africa, where such diseases are endemic.

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