New Ebola Threat: Concerns Link Cross-border Trade to Possible Spread

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Gouécké, the location of the latest outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Republic of Guinea, is less than 75 kilometers from Yekepa, Liberia, approximately 1 hour 35 minutes' drive. (Source: Google Maps)

— As President Weah mandates health authorities to tighten surveillance

The deadly Ebola virus, which killed 4,800 people in Liberia, has resurfaced in a Guinea town that is less than 75 kilometers away from the mining town of Yekepa in Nimba County, Liberia.

The town, Gouécké, near the south-eastern city of Nzérékoré, has seen three deaths and four hospitalization of the virus, according to Aljazeera.   It comes after seven people fell ill with diarrhea, vomiting, and bleeding after attending a burial of a nurse in Goueké, a town that is near the Liberian border.

Gouécké is approximately 145 kilometers north of Ganta, Nimba County (approximately 3 hours’ drive) and less than 75 kilometers from Yekepa, Nimba County (approximately 1 hour 35 minutes’ drive). Ganta the most vibrant commercial city in Liberia, second only to Monrovia, sees a high amount of human and vehicular traffic between there and Nzérékoré a commercial center that is just 45 minutes drive south of Gouécké.

According to Guinea Ministry of Health, the new outbreak is concerning and as a result; they have declared the outbreak as an epidemic, while a second round of tests is being carried out to confirm the latest Ebola diagnosis and health workers are working to trace and isolate the contacts of the cases.

“Faced with this situation and in accordance with international health regulations, the Guinean government declares an Ebola epidemic,” the ministry said in a statement.

Meanwhile, up to late Sunday evening, February 14, residents of Nimba County appeared rather lukewarm about the new threat of Ebola looming just over the county’s border with Guinea. According to our Nimba correspondent, Ishmael F. Menkor, Liberia’s borders in Nimba remain partially closed since the outbreak of the Coronavirus in 2020. “Only cargo is allowed to enter or leave the country,” he said.

GoL response

Given the high volume of cross border trade between Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and their relatively weak healthcare systems, there is concern the outbreak could spread.

In response to the outbreak, President George Weah has mandated the Ministry of Health and its immediate responding health agency, the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), to heighten the country’s epidemiological surveillance and preventive activities amid reports of the emergence of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in neighboring Guinea.

According to a press statement from the Executive Mansion, the President has also mandated Liberia health authorities to engage towns and villages along the borders with Guinea to increase anti-Ebola measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

The President’s instruction, the statement says, intends to ensure Liberia takes proactive steps and actions to avoid the virus from spreading to the country as it did in 2014.

“While the President has instructed health authorities to increase surveillance level, though there has been no report of any case of the virus in Liberia, and President Weah has assured that the government is undertaking all measures to ensure that the public remains safe from the deadly virus,” the executive mansion statement added.

The statement added: “Being acquainted with Ebola preventive measures considering the 2014 experience, President Weah further encouraged every citizen and resident within the borders of Liberia to adapt themselves to the preventive measures as they did in those years, which aided international assistance to kick the virus out of the country.”

Ebola in Guinea

The outbreak in Guinea is the first of its kind since the epidemic in 2013-2016, which left 11,300 dead across West Africa.   In 2013, the first outbreak of the virus occurred in Guinea and later spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. During this period, several vaccines were trialed, and successfully used to fight outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well.

The 2013-2016 spread sped up the development of the vaccine against Ebola, with a global emergency stockpile of 500,000 doses planned to respond quickly to future outbreaks, the vaccine alliance Gavi said in January.

According to the BBC, the current outbreak started after a worker at a health center in Goueké, died on 28 January and her funeral was held four days later. 

The Ebola virus initially causes sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, and a sore throat.  It then progresses to vomiting, diarrhea and both internal and external bleeding and patients tend to die from dehydration and multiple organ failure. People caught through contact with an infected person: broken skin, or the mouth and nose, with the blood, vomit, faeces or bodily fluids of someone with Ebola.

WHO response

Meanwhile, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, according to Al jazeera has disclosed that the resurgence of Ebola in Guinea was a “huge concern” and “Health teams in Guinea are on the move to quickly trace the path of the virus and curb further infections,”

Dr. Moeti added, “WHO is supporting the authorities to set up testing, contact-tracing and treatment structures and to bring the overall response to full speed.”

Al Jazeera further that from Dr Yuma Taido – of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Guinea said it was not clear how people had come into contact with the virus. “We are preparing to manage the outbreak. We cannot explain yet how this epidemic came about. The response team are heading to the epicentre of the outbreak from today,” Taido said.

8 COMMENTS

  1. The other three Minor River Union member-countries (Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Ivory Coast) need to close their borders with the Republic of Guinea — immediately. But, they should also be willing to provide coordinated healthcare assistance to the people of Guinea.
    ###

    Those three countries should also initiate monitoring and contact-tracing travelers who recently traveled across their respective border with Guinea.

    Alert..! Alert..! Alert..!

    The Liberian government needs to immediately investigate the Chinese nationals who cremated someone in Margibi County.
    1) Why was the dead cremated by those Chinese?
    2) Why was the cremation service performed by individuals instead of a certified funeral home?
    3) Did they cremate this dead body because they knew that the dead body was exposed to the EBOLA virus or some other dangerous disease?
    ___________________________________________
    Beware Liberia…!! Be Vigilant…!! Beware..!!!!

  2. Ours is a leadership, which is accustomed to rude awakenings! In this token, the GOL will wait until the menace spreads in the country and by the time it tries to do something, time shall have caught up with Liberians.
    Weah is accustomed to mentioning Ellen’s name in everything he does. And as I read above, he is instructing Liberians to do the same as they did under her administration when Ebola hit the country. Nevertheless, Ellen’s dispensation was a different one; therefore, Liberians are looking up to him to wake up and shine.
    Please let this not be one of Ellen’s failure. Her time has passed. This is Weah’s.

  3. The episode is reminiscent of the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorra when God commanded Lot and family not to look back as He was going to totally destroy the city because of its spiritual vile and debauchery.

    What happened next? His wife defied God’s instructions while they were vacating the city and consequentially, she turned into a pillar of salt.

    So, to draw an analogy out of this story, I am prone to ask: When will this administration stop looking back at past administrations with the sole aim of passing the buck? When will the president begin to take his own independent decisions as the leader and claim his own failures or successes? Maybe, this is why his administration is failing.

    The president should stop looking back and repeating the vices of the past while pretending to the nation his own severe shortcoming is okay and its uniqueness deserves a special condonation even as his improprieties contribute to the unimaginable perils the citizenry is going through.

    In the same token many thanks that he has taken the first step by alerting all the appropriate agencies. Nevertheless, there is more to be done.

  4. Please note that google maps algorithms for calculating Vehicular distance travelled in a given time does not take into account the conditions of the roads and does definitely not reflect the amount of time you will expect to travel from Yekepa to Guekedou. Anyone traveling on that Godforsaken road knows how long it takes , rainy or dry season. That being said, I agree that measures should be taken to prevent a repetition of the first outbreak. Inter country collaborative efforts are also a necessity in containing this extremely deadly disease as it has a rapid potential to cross over. Employ previous lessons learned!

  5. When are we (Africans) going to assume the independence we clamor on all rooftops?

    When we set eye on the rulership of our countries, we treacherously forget the basic principles and ethics of holding the destiny of a people through the power of the pen into our hands.
    Why don’t we develop our own research and development in medicine, technologies, etc. in our various regions or countries?

    This Ebola virus disease mysteriously developed wings and flew from the Democratic Republic of Congo into the same Gueckedou area some years back, and it has resurfaced in the same place. What are we doing as regional bodies to eradicate this pandemic? Are we waiting for the white guys to come and do everything for us, and then tomorrow we come to say ,ooooh, we are an independent country? Shithole countries with shithole rulers.

    Stop selling our countries to take the proceeds to the USA and Europe. Let’s finance our own research and development. We go to school with the white guys and have better grades than they do, let’s get down to work.
    How can you close borders when the people you are closing them on have farms across the other side, or have cousins and grandparents on the other side of the artificial borders?

    Financially, empower our scientists to protect us from tropical diseases. Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal have some of the finest doctors in tropical medicine in the sub region. Finance them to help resolve this EBOLA thing in our region, Mano River rulers!

    It is impossible to close the porous borders between Liberia and Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire, etc.

  6. Once again, the deadly “EBOLA VIRUS” have sprung in the same region of Liberia’s next door neighbor, Guinea. When the first regional [EBOLA] epidemic was brought under control, we were quick to jump to conclusions; “All is well”. As if, the entire region; Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone were imuned to Ebola. How wrong! As we were told, the cause of that first “Ebola” out break, was the result of a little girl coming in contact with an “Ebola-Infected” bat. What’s the cause of this new outbreaks; in the same-exact region of Guinea? Can it possibly be another infected bat? Should that be the case, then it’s absolutely necessary that we locate the source of Ebola in Guinea and eradicate that source; even if it means joint efforts by Guinea Liberia and Sierra Leone’s militaries. Bats live in caves. Find all caves in that Ebola Bats-Infected region of Guinea. Then, eliminate them; “Ebola infected Bats”. Where there’s one infected bat, there may be many-more out of sight.

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