Gov’t Appeals for US$1.2M to Prevent Spread of Ebola

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To contain the deadly Ebola virus that is now confirmed to be in the country, the Government of Liberia, has launched an urgent appeal for the US$1.2 million that it has budgeted to prevent the spread of the virus.

This appeal was echoed by authorities of the Ministries of Health and Social Welfare (MoSHW), Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT) and the World Health Organization (WHO) at a major press conference Monday, March 31, held at the Information Ministry on Capitol Hill.

Health and Social Welfare Minister, Dr. (MD) Walter T. Gwenigale said the US$1.2 million is urgently needed to address some of the problems necessary to prevent the “deadly Ebola virus,” which is now confirmed to have claimed at least one life in Foya, Lofa Country.

“We are appealing to the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Finance, and to all our partners, to make the US$1.2 million available so that we can prevent the spread of the virus from reaching other parts of the country,” he said.

According to the Health Minister and his deputy, Dr. Bernice Dahn, the money would be used for case management, surveillance and health promotion.

Notwithstanding, in a March 30th interview with the Daily Observer, Dr. Gwenigale said a portion of the money would be used to give daily subsistence allowances (DSA) for health workers in the suspected counties, fuel and gasoline for vehicles and generators and for protective gear for the health workers, among others.

However, Mr. Thomas Nagbe, Director of Disease Prevention and Control at the Health Ministry, also told the Observer Sunday evening that the National Public Emergency Task Force (NPETF), which is coordinating the GOL’s efforts at curtailing the spread of the Ebola virus, has received at least five percent—US$60,000—of the total amount needed.

Nagbe further clarified out of that amount US$50,000 was provided by the GoL and the US$10,000 from the MRU Secretariat. He also stated that other partners, including UNFPA had come forward with material support.

At the Monday press conference, Health Ministry authorities clarified that instead of five as had been told the media the day before, seven blood samples, were sent to Lyon, France for testing and two of the samples showed the presence of the virus. Of the two, one has since died and the other is reportedly “at large.”

Experts have warned that a single case of the Ebola virus, which has a “case fatality rate of 90 percent,” is an epidemic (tending to affect a disproportionately large number of persons within a community or region at the same time.)

Even though one doesn’t know how long it is going to take to curtail the spread of the virus in the country, aggregating the total amount is very important and urgent to prevent a greater portion of the population from being affected.

Speaking further about the two blood samples from one patient that tested positive and the other from one that has since died, Health Minister Gwenigale disclosed that the other person was the sister of the deceased. “This sister was the one looking after [the deceased] when she fell sick. Blood from her, too, tested positive,” he added. 

According to him, his worries were now centered on the surviving sister of the deceased (both of their names remain unknown) as she travelled from Lofa to Firestone in Margibi County and likely interacted with several persons along the way. This opens a possibility that some of the people she interacted with on her way and since her arrival in Firestone have also become infected.

Dr. Gwenigale told journalists that they had informed the medical director at the Firestone-run Duside Hospital, Dr.  Lyndon G. Mabande, was doing all he could to keep the affected lady and all those she might have interacted since her arrival in Harbel, Firestone, isolated so that the rest of the population doesn’t get infected.

According to Dr. Bernice Dahn, who is also the Chief Medical Officer of Liberia, the Health Ministry has taken blood samples from the Firestone area to a laboratory in Guinea for testing.

Dr. Dahn and Dr. Gwenigale, along with Information Minister Lewis G. Brown, said the GoL was doing everything in its power to provide the necessary pieces of information to the public and that the public needs not panic.

They reiterated the safety tips for everyone to follow: “Do not eat animals that are found dead in the bush, and avoid contacts with fruit bats, monkeys, chimpanzees, antelopes and porcupines. Limit as much as possible, direct contact with body fluids of infected persons or dead persons. Wash your hands with soap and water as frequently as possible. Treat your water with chlorine before drinking.

Concerning a border closure with Guinea, Dr. Nestor Ndayimirije, Country Representative of WHO-Liberia, said it was not necessary to close the borders. The WHO Rep. stated that his organization does not support the closure of borders in situations like these, and that such measures have not proven to help in other cases.

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