Possibility Exists of Ebola Re-entry

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The Deputy Minister of Health-designate for Disease Surveillance, Tolbert Nyenswah, has warned that while Liberia has had zero cases of Ebola for quite some time, there is a possibility of re-introduction of the disease in the country.

He however asserted that so long as there was appropriate recognition, triage, isolation and treatment of re-introduced cases, “we can prevent the spread of infection in our country.”

Mr. Nyenswah, who is the head of the Incident Management System (IMS) for the fight against the Ebola Virus, was addressing the Senate plenary yesterday on whether it was necessary for Liberia to close its borders with Guinea and Sierra Leone, both countries that are still fighting to contain the spread of the disease.

Appearance of Minister Nyenswah followed a letter from Montserrado County Senator Geraldine Doe-Sherif in which she requested the plenary to invite Health Ministry authorities to clarify whether there was a need to close Liberia’s borders with Guinea and Sierra Leone, amidst reports of no end to the Ebola spread in those countries.

Mr. Nyenswah, who appeared together with representatives from the America-based Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), disclosed that Liberia remains without a confirmed case of Ebola up to June 23, 2015. “However, our neighboring countries of Guinea and Sierra Leone are still battling cases which have raised high concerns regarding the
Liberian borders; in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) option and opinion based on the input of its technical partners, it is in the best interest not to close the borders with Guinea and Sierra Leone.”

Though Guinea and Sierra Leone continue to have transmissions of Ebola, the IMS head informed the full Chamber that the counties bordering Liberia have not reported confirmed cases of Ebola for several months.

He said the cases in Guinea are focused in four locations far from Liberia’s borders, while in Sierra Leone the cases are mainly in the North and Western regions including the capital city Freetown, according to statistics from the WHO which Nyenswah said have been confirmed by Liberian medical authorities.

With this in mind, he said the Ministry of Health and partners continue to work specifically on the surveillance system to detect not only new cases of Ebola virus disease, but other diseases facing Liberia; “we have the capacity to address cases and control the spread of infections in the country.”

The IMS boss said his staff is working very closely with county health teams; they would receive record of suspected cases in the counties, and have up to date reports on investigations conducted.

“It remains important for citizens to report suspected cases to their health facilities and public health officials. Closing of the borders is only a cosmetic fix to solving the problem of an individual entering
the country with possible Ebola,” Nyenswah cautioned, and emphasized that everything possible is being done to protect Liberia’s borders with the affected countries.

“It is important that Liberia and all Liberians remain vigilant and report any suspected cases of the disease to their local and county health teams.”

In another development, Mr. Nyenswah yesterday allayed fears that the reported deaths of several cattle in Lofa County are a sign of the return of Ebola in the country.

He confirmed that close to 800 cattle, including goats and sheep have died mysteriously, and promised that though the Ministry of Health only deals with humans, the Ministry will take the issue up with the Ministry of Agriculture which deals with animal husbandry and conduct thorough investigation to determine the cause of the animals’ mysterious deaths.

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