Dr. Catherine Kurkett-Kamara, director of the SALT Rehabilitation Clinic in Zubah Town community in Paynesville, outside Monrovia, has raised alarm over the emergence of a new disease in the country, which she classified as "Zika virus," transmitted mainly by mosquitoes.
The disease, according to Dr. Kamara, is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes, which bites its victims in the day.
Symptoms are generally mild to include fever, rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache.
Dr. Kamara, a Liberian and a Certified Physical Therapist, is based in the United States of America. She made the disclosure to reporters recently in Monrovia.
She said that the virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, which over the years has affected many Liberians, mainly children. According to her, if a mosquito carrying the virus bites a pregnant mother, "the mother is not affected, rather the unborn baby is affected."
SALT Rehabilitation Clinic evaluates and treats individuals seeking recovery after stroke, fractured bones, joint deformities, prosthetic training, muscle weakness, motor vehicle and motorcycle-related accidents.
"Emmanuel Dogbeh, who has been with the SALT Rehabilitation Clinic since 2016, appeared to have the virus, but I have taken his pictures to the US, and everybody agreed that little Emmanuel is suffering from the Zika virus," Kamara said.
He said little Emmanuel was taken to the clinic by his grandmother, who explained that they did not know his problem.
"Little Emmanuel would not hold his head up or even sit in an upright position. I was moved by the shape of his head, position of his nose, and ear," the mother of ailing Emmanuel said.
Dr. Kamara added, "These are all features that were familiar to me as a doctoral public health student. I am also sure that there are other babies around like Little Emmanuel. We are all Africans, and if you have a child with disability, people begin to say a lot, including the child being afflicted by 'dragon'. For the patient, I have to convince the grandmother that this condition is not the making of anything creature called dragon."
She said that the Zika virus was observed three years ago, "but I have been trying to get the attention of the Ministry Health's Public Health professionals to look at this problem."
Dr. Francis Kateh, Liberia's Chief Medical Officer, could not be reached as several calls and a text message made to him, for clarity on the matter, went unanswered.
During Liberia's 169th Independence Day Celebration in July, 2016, the National Orator for that occasion, Dr. Dougbeh Chris Nyan, announced to Liberians that he had invented a "simple, rapid and affordable test can detect many infectious pathogens and tell the differences between and among the pathogens at the same time in just 10 to 40 minutes." Dr. Nyan has also received a United Sates Patent for his invention. The Nyan Test, as it is known in the global scientific community, is patented and can detect viruses including Zika, HIV, hepatitis, Dengue hemorrhagic fever virus (which has symptoms similar to the Ebola virus) infection, Ebola, among others.
In February that same year, the World Bank Group announced that it had made US$150 million immediately available to support countries in Latin America and the Caribbean affected by the Zika virus outbreak.
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no specific medicine or vaccine for Zika virus.
Dr. Kamara warns: "Children with Zika virus usually come with some brain damage, and will look alike some ways. They have physical disabilities and are mostly limited in walking and speech. They all have small head, and are severely disabled."
She said she came to Liberia in 2014 along with volunteers from the U.S. and introduced physical occupational and therapy into the country's healthcare. According to her, since the program was introduced in Liberia, it has graduated two classes, and are involved in treating people from all walks of life.
Dr. Kamara said they have worked with the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, the American Cooperative School, people from the United Nations (UN), as well as ordinary Liberians, helping people to get better healthcare services.
As a result of Dr. Kamara's intervention, Little Emmanuel's mother has now studied and she's now one of occupational clinicians.
Dr. Kamara said another mother recently visited the clinic with a child, who is suspected of suffering from the same virus, while claiming that the child is suffering from "dragon" instead of the Zika virus.
"Our people are not educated, so Liberia needs foreign partners, the Ministry of Health and public health experts to get involved, because only God knows what people are doing with children suffering from Zika virus in the country. This is not the fault of the mother or father, but nature," she said.
Dr. Kamara is founder and CEO of C.E. Turkett Consultants, LLC. She is Licensed to practice physical therapy in the United States. A former employee of the Emory Healthcare System in Atlanta, Georgia for over 10 years, she is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Jersey State University, and is at present a doctoral candidate of Public Health, specializing in Epidemiology at the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at Capella University, Minneapolis.