Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lewis Brown, has stated that the deadly Ebola virus, which was suspected to be in the country after it was announced that five of six persons who crossed over from neighboring Guinea have died from the virus, does not exist in Liberia.
Speaking in an interview at his office on Capitol Hill Wednesday, March 26, Minister Brown said all of the suspected cases that were reported are not Ebola as medical research has revealed.
According to Min. Brown, “The cases reported do not confirm that these people who died or those undergoing treatment were/are infected by the Ebola virus. The patient transferred to the John F. Kennedy is doing well and the child who spent four days in the hospital [in Zorzor] is recovering.”
Minister Brown explained that the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and its partners have taken blood samples to Guinea and France for medical tests and observation. He expects results in the soonest possible time.
“We do not have any evidence to show that anyone in Liberia has Ebola. All previous measures taken by the government were intended as precautions for the sake of our dear citizens, which is the best that a good government could do for its people in the situation.”
Minister Brown explained that the press conference held by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare on Monday, March 24, was a precautionary measure taken to keep citizens informed due to Liberia’s shared border with Guinea.
“Not a single case of actual Ebola was reported by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare or any of its partners including the World Health Organization (WHO). Those that were speculated to be Ebola patients are now recovering and doing well; two of them have been treated and discharged in Foya.”
The Information Minister stated that the Health Ministry through its spokesman is calling on the general public to follow the essential measures as instructed by the Health Minister on Monday. The spokesman said that precaution is needed before further investigation or reports on the part of the media.
Minister Brown said a person having dysentery, diarrhea, or vomiting with blood does not mean that he has Ebola as claimed by many in the country. He said that the Gov’t wanted to be clear that ‘cries of Ebola in Liberia’ were false.
The Minister explained that hygiene is important to everyone whether Ebola is in the country or not. He called on the general public to continue washing their hands and adhering to the initial measures of Ebola prevention until further notice.
“We want to re-emphasize that you should wash your hands with soap and water as frequently as possible, and avoid direct interactions with animals such as monkeys and consumption of their raw meat. You must treat your water with chlorine before drinking it for now. We will continue to provide medical reports and updates to the public,” he concluded.
This latest summersault comes after Health and Social Welfare Minister, Dr. (MD) Walter Traub Gwenigale and his Deputy Minister, Dr. (MD) Bernice Dahn, who is the Chief Medical Officer for the Republic, had told news men women at a major Monday, March 24 press conference that the deadly Ebola virus, which is reported to have killed at least 60 person in neighboring Guinea, had crossed over into Liberia.
They emphasized that as of that date—March 24—five of six persons, who crossed over to Liberia from Guinea, had died from the Ebola virus. They even further clarified that two of the five went back and died in Guinea and the three died on Liberian soil, while the sixth, a female child, was critical and being treated at a local health facility in Zorzor, Lofa County.
Min. Lewis Brown, who now denied the presence of Ebola in Liberia, was also a part of the press conference at which the Health Ministry’s authorities announced that Ebola has crossed over into Liberia from Guinea.
Meanwhile, Health Min. Gwenigale has told the Observer that no one has been quarantined at the JFK Medical Center because of Ebola.
This paper was reliably told by an insider that a patient was quarantined on Tuesday, after health practitioners at the hospital noticed symptoms of the Ebola virus. Our source said the person had come from the suspected Ebola region in Lofa County.
The Ministry of Health, in an update, dropped the number of deaths from the “suspected viral hemorrhagic fever” cases to four instead of five as it had announced earlier on Monday, March 24. However, authorities of the Health Ministry still maintain the six-person figure disclosed on Monday.
The MOHSW said it continues to monitor and investigate cases of suspected viral hemorrhagic fever in the country.
It is noteworthy that the Health Ministry no longer calls it the Ebola virus but “suspected viral hemorrhagic fever."
In a related development, the management of the John F. Kennedy Medical Center has also clarified that at no time did authorities in Ganta transfer Ebola or suspected Ebola cases at the hospital as was reported by the local media.
JFK in a release said it is disappointing that others will choose to report such critical national issue without checking first with the hospital. “Management maintains that its various wards are one hundred percent free of Ebola patients and urged journalists to counter-check their stories before publication.”
The hospital authorities said recent transfers from Ganta did not in any way come with referral slip indicating Ebola. JFK said every patient that is transfer from a health post comes with a referral slips from a medical practitioner and the slip will clearly state the patient cause of illness and all medications previously administered.
It is not clear, however, how the JFK can deny the information when the Acting Chief Medical Officer of Ganta Hospital, Dr. Claude Monga, told a team of journalists on Tuesday, March 25, that two suspected Ebola cases were diagnosed at the Ganta United Methodist Hospital on Monday, March 24.
He told journalists that the patients were immediately transferred to the John F. Kennedy Hospital in Monrovia because the Ganta hospital had nowhere to keep such patients.
Dr. Monga said one of the patients, believed to be a nine-year-old girl, was brought from Guinea and was vomiting and excreting blood, days after she was admitted at the hospital. After discovering her condition, she was immediately transferred.
He also noted the other patient didn’t vomit or excrete blood, but had been having persistent fever for the past five days and was also transferred.
With an assist from Alaskai Moore Johnson, Observer Health Correspondent