‘Effective Surveillance is Critical’

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The Director of the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden, has stressed that effective surveillance is critical to curtailing the deadly Ebola virus. He further stated that enhancing the government and partners’ capacity to respond adequately to sick and burial calls is critical to the efficiency of the fight against the virus that has plagued the country and claimed over 500 lives.

Dr. Frieden, who is heading the US delegation that arrived in the country Monday, August 25, praised Government for a good effort thus far, but pointed out that the government’s response team needs all the support internally and externally if the spread of the Ebola virus must be contained.

Speaking at a meeting held at the Foreign Ministry, after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had welcomed him and his team to Liberia, Dr. Frieden called for the expansion of treatment facilities as a bigger challenge that must be addressed with timeliness and urgency. The meeting was held at the Foreign Ministry’s C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium on Monday, August 25.

President Sirleaf and other top government officials including Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, House Speaker Alex Tyler, President Pro-Tempore Gbezohngar Findley, Chief Justice Francis Korkpor, Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan, Finance Minister Amara Konneh, Justice Minister Cllr. Christiana Tah, Health and Social Welfare Ministry officials and several members of the Legislature, attended the meeting

Dr. Frieden recommended that strengthening coordination with the case management system team is principal in tackling the spread of the virus and noted that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has much more presence in country than earlier.

He indicated further the immediate training for healthcare workers in collaboration with partners such as MSF for the management of treatment facilities is also critical in the fight against the disease.

The US-CDC boss comments came after Assistant Health Minister for Preventive Services, Tolbert Nyenswah, briefed the CDC delegation about the government’s current structure and intervention level as the country seeks to halt the spread of the Ebola virus disease.

Minister Nyenswah, who is also the coordinator of the National Task Force (NTF) on Ebola, outlined the progress made, constraints and challenges that exist and what is required to contain the epidemic.

The NTF Coordinator identified the strengthening of case management system that involves treatment of infected persons, testing processes and facilities, burial processes, contact tracing and surveillance, community mobilization and health promotion, improved incentives and attention for healthcare workers as interventions, which he said, will enhance the fight against the spread of the virus.

He stressed the need to create more treatment centers with greater capacity across the country, especially the counties that are hard hit and the provision of more logistics to respond to the sick as well as the collection of deceased persons as critical and urgent. He appealed for a strong psychosocial component in the fight due to stigma, psychological challenges of the affected persons as well as family and community members.

 President Sirleaf earlier welcomed Dr. Frieden and delegation to the country and informed them that government notes the severity of the current Ebola virus disease, which was reflected in the number of high-ranking government officials present at the meeting from all three branches of the government.

She indicated that the disease was affecting the well being of the people and has the potential to undermine all the progress the country had made if not contained quickly. “I know you have had time to talk with many of the actors involved in the fight to contain the spread of the virus and will meet many more. We encourage you to do so in order to get a clearer picture of the situation and thereby informing your action and intervention as an institution,” President Sirleaf emphasized, adding that government was keen on listening to the CDC delegation as it partners with government to contain the spread of the virus.

For his part, the Director of the CDC’s Center for Global Health, Dr. Tom Kenyen, indicated that the African continent through the African Union has been engaged to assist with medical personnel to help the effected countries but has to be assured about the safety and protection of these health workers.

Dr. Kenyen warned that the re-emergence of the disease in places where they have occurred before is eminent and urged the country to always watch out even after the containment of the current outbreak. He recommended the integration of the various interventions into an integrated case management system that is comprehensive and holistic.

The Co-founder and Chairman of the Board of the Health Education and Teaching Through Training (HEARTT Foundation), Dr. Adama Sirleaf, who is also in country along with the CDC Team, is calling on the international community to support efforts aimed at protecting healthcare workers across Liberia who must perform regular services beyond the Ebola epidemic.

Dr. Sirleaf is one of the four sons of President Sirleaf. He has also been involved in rendering medical assistance and services to the nation’s premier referral hospital, the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Hospital, the his organization, HEART Foundation.

Members of the U.S.–CDC delegation  that is visiting the country include, its head, Dr. Frieden; the Director of the CDC Center for Global Health, Dr. Kenyen; Director of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), Jeremy Konyndyk; and the Special Assistant to the CDC Director, Kimberly Dills.

 

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