2 April 2014

Liberia: 'Contradictions' in Ebola Information

Photo: allAfrica.com
Patients being treated at a Liberia hospital. (file photo)

There seems to be series of contradictions in information emanating from authorities of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare regarding the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia.

Recently, Health Minister Walter Gwenigale announced that over seven suspected cases of Ebola were discovered with at least five deaths reported in Liberia.

Dr. Gwenigale said although the over seven cases were not medically confirmed, but the suspected patients were treated with caution because they were brought from Guinea where the disease was medically confirmed.

"If these people are coming to us to be treated and if we do not treat them as if they were cases of Ebola and our people start dying, they will say we are negligent; that's why we are treating our cases as if they are Ebola cases... " Minister Gwenigale said.

Barely a week later, the Health Minister stated that the Ministry has removed from the initial list of five suspected Ebola deaths, a child who died in Lofa County.

He said it was later discovered that the child may have died of different kind of illness and not Ebola as initially announced by the health authorities.

"So, instead of having five people who have died, we have four adults; two of them died in Liberia and two came to Liberia and went back and died in Guinea... " Minister Gwenigale said.

Deputy Health Minister and Liberia's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Bernice Dahn also said two of the suspected cases that were initially reported did not meet the Ebola suspected case definition of the Ministry of Health.

Dr. Dahn said four specimens were sent to Guinea for testing in order to confirm the presence of the disease in Liberia.

She stated that the Ministry was hopeful of receiving results from the four specimens that were sent for testing on Sunday, March 29, 2014.

However, on Monday, March 31, Dr. Gwenigale said seven results were received from the specimens sent for testing with two confirming Ebola cases in Liberia.

Although the Minister didn't state how the initial four specimens that were reportedly sent for testing increased to seven, but noted that the two confirmed cases were two sisters, one of who died of the virus.

The Ebola virus reportedly spread to Liberia from neighboring Guinea, where it has killed at least 78 people.

It is spread by close contact and kills between 25% and 90% of its victims.

Dr. Gwenigale said of the two confirmed cases, one of the sisters had recently returned to Liberia from Guinea.

The outbreak started in Guinea's remote south-eastern forest region but later spread to the capital, Conakry which has population of two million.

There have also been suspected cases of Ebola in neighboring Sierra Leone which is yet to be confirmed.

In continuance of the Ministry's public awareness on the deadly disease, Assistant Health Minister for Preventive Services, Tolbert Nyensuah said the disease is spread to humans from fruits, animals, among others.

Majority of Liberians rely on bush meat and other forest products for daily meals and other livelihoods.

Assistant Minister Nyensuah also urged the people of Liberia to ensure that they regularly wash their hands with soap to prevent the virus from spreading.

He said patients suspected of the Ebola are usually isolated from other patients by health authorities.

Assistant Minister Nyensuah admonished families not to discriminate against family members who are suspected of the virus.

He said the Ministry has already developed a three-month budget of US$1.2 million to address the spread of the virus in Liberia.

Minister Nyensuah said the US$1.2 million will go toward prevention, public awareness, purchase of drugs for protective care and treatment.

Victims of the Ebola virus usually suffer from vomiting, diarrhea and internal and external bleeding. The disease was discovered in 1976 after an outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, then Zaire.

Scientists have yet to develop an effective drug or vaccine to fight it.

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