The Government of Liberia has begun testing citizens in eight counties for the deadly Ebola disease.
This testing of individuals is meant to control the spread from counties believed to be highly infected with the killer disease.
Several counties, including Bomi, Lofa, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Bassa, Margibi Montserrado and Grand Gedeh, have been controlled to regulate the movement of people going in and out of those areas.
The Daily Observer recently discovered that the control process as announced by the Liberian government took a different dimension as the temperatures of those leaving from one area to another were tested by nurses assigned at various checkpoints using only three thermometers.
The testing process has been questioned by some segments of the Liberian society, including foreign nationals who visited Bomi over the weekend.
Bomi County is among eight counties quarantined by the Liberian government.
In an interview with the Daily Observer over the weekend, Mr. Shang Guan, a Chinese national, said the intention of the government is good but is also dangerous to the health of citizens and foreigners alike.
Mr. Guan refused to be tested with any of the three thermometers used by the county health team at the Bomi checkpoint.
He said the use of manual thermometers to check the temperature of travelers as a means of containing the spread of the deadly virus was not the right thing to do. Experts have said that one way the deadly Ebola virus is spread is through contact with bodily fluids. Thermometers are either inserted in the mouth or under the arm, both of which involve the transfer of saliva and sweat respectively.
According to him, since the virus quickly spreads and kills 90% of its victims, it would be prudent for authorities at the Health Ministry to use advanced rather than standard thermometers that do not involve physical contact with individuals.
“I was worried about taking the test because even if you have malaria your temperature will be high and even if that person has Ebola, it might spread to the others just by the use of the so few thermometers”, Mr. Guan said.
He disclosed that what was even more scary to him was that all those who were being tested used the same three thermometers, with nurses having physical contact with travelers. Such a situation is highly risky for the people of Liberia.
The Chinese national hailed Liberians as well as foreigners alike who have cooperated with the testing, but suggested that the limited thermometers being used must be well sanitized to avoid endangering the lives of others.
Another Liberian, Oscar Dolo, who was seen at the checkpoint said, the process was poorly coordinated by the county health authorities.
He added that the process was hampering their free movement from one area to another.
“I came since this morning and spent over two hours at this checkpoint. Those health workers who were to come early were the last to arrive, keeping us here for hours.”
According to Dolo, the process is good but he advised that the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare should handle the process properly to have it well done. He added, “What is not done well is not done at all.”
Speaking to a team of Liberian journalists under the supervision of the IREX and the Liberia Media Center training program, the Registered Nurse (RN) and focus person at the youth friendly center, Gabriel E. Moore, said the process is intended to run a fever test and not to carry out a complete physical test.
Additionally, Mr. Moore said they were given a direct mandate to only carry out a fever test for people crossing over from one county to the other.
“One of the signs of the Ebola virus is fever and so what we are basically doing is to just search for fever and if one has fever we send that person back to his or her community.”
When asked by the team of reporters as to what was the next step if a person is diagnosed with fever, Mr. Moore said, the individual will be sent to his community and if there should be any other measure it would be communicated to the health team.
Responding to the complaints made by passengers and drivers who expressed frustration with spending a night and several hours at the check point, Moore admitted that they arrived at the area late on grounds that their mandate came late.