Nimba: Concurrent Disease Outbreaks Spur Compliance with Preventive Measures

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A county surveillance officer noted that the measles situation in Tappita is under control, unlike Sanniquellie that still has a number of cases of the disease. (Pictured: partial view of the Jackson F. Doe Memorial hospital in Tappita, Nimba County)

Nimba, the county that became known for its vehement skepticisms of the existence of the Coronavirus within its territorial domain, now has two reasons for its citizens to tone down their distrust of the health authorities’ directives concerning the Coronavirus pandemic in the country. First is the Coronavirus itself which, before now, a number of Nimbaians who were posthumously declared positive of the virus; and now a measles outbreak in the northern and southern parts of the county — something which, perhaps, because of familiarity, they take much more seriously.

Amid the outbreak of novel Coronavirus in Liberia, reports from two districts in Nimba speak of an outbreak of measles in the county, including Sanniquellie and Tappita. But members of the Nimba County Health Team (CHT) are tightlipped to divulge details of the measles outbreak.

The measles situation was disclosed when two surveillance officers of the CHT from the onset of COVID-19 appeared on a Radio Nimba morning show on Tuesday, March 24 to intensify awareness on the deadly COVID-19, where they urged the citizens to abide by all the preventive measures prescribed by the MOH.

The Surveillance officers, Messrs. Isaac Cole and Telekpeh Wehyee Johnson, who made the disclosure of the measles outbreak during their radio awareness campaign, spoke of intervention by the Ministry of Health.

They indicated that the Ministry of Health has already begun a routine vaccination campaign in the affected districts. They also dispelled rumors that the ongoing vaccination campaign is for COVID-19, as has been wrongly interpreted by some people to the public.

When contacted for more details on the latest outbreak in the county, one of the surveillance officers, Mr. Johnson, could not give the exact number of cases treated so far but added that hundreds of children benefitted.

Johnson, who said he could not give numbers in the absence of the data officer, but noted that the measles situation in Tappita is under control, unlike Sanniquellie that still has a number of cases of the disease.

He named Gbapa, an old mining town near Yekepa, as one of the more seriously infected communities in the Sanniquellie Mah District, although the County Health Team has been hesitant to respond to inquiries on health related issues in the county.

According to our reporter, none of the operatives on the County Health Team has been willing to accept interview from journalists since the measles outbreak was reported last week.

One of the health officers told this reporter that he will request permission from the County Health Officer, Dr. Philip Sahr, before he can disclose to the public a full account of the measles outbreak, something many considered as censorship intended to deny the public the right to know.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 preventive awareness is also being intensified on local radio stations across Nimba, with some visible signs of cooperation among citizens, as evidenced by the huge number of business centers and private homes in Nimba that have buckets of water for hand-washing.

The fear of COVID-19 has slowed down businesses and movements across the county. Although most night clubs are still open in Ganta, it appears, however, that the customers are not frequenting them as before.

Some of the main restaurants are mostly empty with people basically concentrating on buying food for preparation at home and for storage.

“We are only looking for food money now, because there are no customers,” said Boye Suah, proprietor of an entertainment center.

At the same time, commercial vehicles continue to ply between Ganta and Monrovia, abiding by the rules and regulations set by MoH, which call for three passengers per taxi.

The public buses are also plying the highways, carrying sixty passengers on each bus; but the closeness of the passengers on seats has created much public concern.

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