Liberia: 'No Ebola in Liberia,' Health Minister Jallah Says

Dr. Wilhemina Jallah, Minister of Health of Liberia, has disclosed that there is no confirmed case of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the country following reports earlier yesterday that a woman from neighboring Guinea was suspected of the virus in a local health facility in Monrovia. Though the Minister remains the official spokesperson whose statement about health matters is indisputable, she is speaking ahead of the disclosure of the laboratory result of the suspected case.

Late Wednesday evening (February 17, 2021), news broke out that a lady visited Dr. Swaray's clinic in Paynesville and was suspected of bearing signs and symptoms of Ebola, thereby leading to her immediate referral to the Redemption Hospital where she is still undergoing proper medical monitoring and care.

In an interview with the Daily Observer yesterday (February 18, 2021), Dr. Mohammed Swaray, proprietor of the Swaray clinics, including the Medicover clinic located at ELWA Junction, said he was afraid when a woman, only identified as Fatumata, came to his clinic bearing the severity of the signs and symptoms of the deadly Ebola.

Fatumata is said to have recently returned from Nzerekore, the Republic of Guniea, where there are reported cases of Ebola again.

"As we speak, there is no confirmed case of Ebola in Liberia," Minister Jallah told the Liberian Senate when she appeared on Thursday afternoon to speak on what her ministry is doing to prevent the country from reverting back to the ugly days of 2014 Ebola epidemic. "Yes, what we have is a suspected case and that case is being treated."

She said laboratory tests for both COVID-19 and Ebola are not rapid or fast in Liberia due to the many challenges including resource constraints.

"When the result is ready, this evening or late tonight, we will inform the public about the finding," Dr. Jallah said further.

Amid the report, there is the Coronavirus pandemic, another deadly disease ravaging the world and accounting for more deaths in history than any other deadly disease, including HIV/AIDS, measles, cholera, Ebola, among several others.

For Dr. Swaray, there is a need for health authorities to do due diligence with the suspected case, but as it has begun already, it is uncertain whether or not that due diligence-proper surveilance, repeated tests and caregiving will be done in order to ensure that Fatumata, if released, would come back into her community truly free of Ebola or COVID-19.

"We are waiting for the outcome from Redemption, but the signs and symptoms we saw informed us that Fatumata might be Ebola or COVID-19 positive. Thank God, I was at the clinic when she arrived for the check-up. I was swift in discouraging my workers from touching her due to the severity she displayed in her ailment posture," Swaray told the Daily Observer on Thursday morning.

In her further briefing at the Ministry of Information (MICAT), Health Minister Dr. Jallah said one million COVID-19 vaccine dozes are expected in the country in March, but was quick to say that no Ebola vaccine would come because there is no confirmed case yet.

"Liberia and other African Countries are having discussions aimed at ordering the Ebola preventative vaccines in preparedness for any eventuality", Dr. Jallah added.

She admonished that all health protocols, including regular hand-washing with soap, use of sanitizer and wearing of face-masks continue at all gatherings, including schools and market places, among others.

She said security personnel are posted at border points with Guinea and Sierra Leone in order to ensure that people entering the country follow all health prootocols.

Dr. Jallah called on communities near the borders with Guinea and Sierra Leone to increase awareness campaigns in order to help people be vigilant and stay safe by following the health protocols and also report strange cases they come across.

Ebola was first discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C), formerly Congo Zaire, near the Ebola River in 1976 and later on in South Sudan.

After 38 years of its absence from Congo and any other part of the world, the virus disease was discovered in West Africa in 2014 with Guinea reporting the first case, followed by Liberia and then Sierra Leone.

With COVID-19, Liberia, although poor in its infrastructures and health system, appears to have far lower number of 1,985 confirmed cases of which 1,794 account for recoveries and 85 deaths.

Dr. Emmanuel Ekyinabah, President of the Liberia Medical and Dental Association (LMDA) said his organization is concerned about the authenticity of what is being reported ahead of test result.

"We, too, are concerned about the information. Unless they tell us that someone within the laboratory information management system has leaked it out to the public or the Minister herself has seen it, but in the absence of the verified truth that the case is negative, it is not a good thing to outrightly say that there is no Ebola case," Dr. Ekyinabah told the Daily Observer via mobile phone.

He said it will be good news for the country upon knowing truthfully that there is no confirmeed Ebola case, most especially when COVID-19 is still around and casuing havoc. However, he said information should not be stage-managed by anyone on the basis of bringing calm.

"We are waiting to see what happens in the next hours ahead, but it would be okay for the Minister if she had said that the result is pending and upon its availability, the public could know the actual truth. But again, we wait and see what happens. We hope it remains negative," he said.

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