Liberia continues to be an Ebola-free country having officially passed day 73 of the 90-day period of heightened surveillance without any reported new Ebola cases, Madam Leela Zaizay, the National Surveillance Officer and Public Health Lead at the Ministry of Health (MOH), has said.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer over the weekend, Madam Zaizay said after the heightened surveillance, Liberia will come under the usual or regular surveillance as other non-Ebola countries.
Liberia, after 42 days without a single new case of the deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD) that gripped three West African nations for over a year, was declared free of the transmission on May 9, but the disease re-emerged on June 29. Six additional cases were identified midway through the first 90-day period when a routine postmortem swab taken from a 17-year old male, who died on June 28 tested positive for the EVD.
The end of the 90-day period of heightened (or active) surveillance of the country would mean that Liberia is truly free of the transmission of the EVD, which has killed nearly 5,000 Liberians and several foreigners.
In partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), Emory University (USA) and African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), Liberia has meanwhile reactivated its Disease Outbreak Surveillance Program to intensify vigilance and rapid response to any outbreak.
Two weeks ago, 30 surveillance officers graduated from the Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) – the first of its kind in the country.
During their surveillance activities, the 5,893 suspected cases of Ebola they were monitoring in the 15 counties tested negative. The investigation was done at 91 health districts, 718 health centers as well as swabbing of dead bodies.
The report said that at the time, Grand Gedeh County had the highest suspected Ebola cases (1,676), followed by Grand Bassa County (1,015) and Lofa County (130).
The report further said besides the suspected Ebola cases, there were also 2,345 suspected cases of acute watery diarrhea followed by 37 suspected cases of measles.
Last week, according to Madam Zaizay, another batch of trainees began instruction in surveillance, epidemiology, response and scientific communication skills of public health workers at the district, county and national levels.
The FETP basic training will last for three months and will focus on fundamental skills used in frontline surveillance and response for diseases in Liberia or elsewhere.
It may be recalled that Deputy Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah said disease outbreaks would not end with Ebola and surveillance officers were the frontline defense to identify early signals of any epidemic and marshal a rapid response.
Meanwhile, in order to build a resilient health sector to tackle pending outbreaks, MOH has employed 736 health workers with plans to hire up to 4,132 more over seven years.