Says Liberian scientist, Dr. Dougbeh Chris Nyan
Liberian scientist Dr. Dougbeh Chris Nyan has urged the Government of Liberia to reconsider its plan to use Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town as a quarantine center for suspected Coronavirus disease patients, stressing that the disease my spillover to people in this densely populated area where the majority of people there are poor.
The borough, which is home to over 60,000 inhabitants mostly living in zinc shack structures in a congested environment, is faced with serious unhealthy environmental conditions.
The government’s decision, according to Dr. Nyan, who invented a rapid diagnostic test that can detect three to seven infectious diseases simultaneously in 10 to 40 minutes, is potentially dangerous and an ill-advised move that needs to reversed.
Dr. Nyan explained that setting up a quarantine and observation center in such a densely populated community could spell national disaster.
“Given what we know to date in the scientific community, the Wuhan New Coronavirus spreads through a person-to-person transmission pattern. Thus, it is not advisable to place any quarantine facility in a densely populated community like New Kru Town for suspected patients with serious unhealthy environmental conditions. I would think that current healthcare and public health authorities in Liberia would relate to the Ebola experience as guidance and reminder,” the Liberian Scientist added.
Dr. Nyan added that Liberia public health authorities should be very careful with their decision to avoid making impoverished “communities like New Kru Town shoulder an unwarranted health burden when there are many uninhabited land areas in and around Monrovia where a quarantine facility can be situated.”
“I do advise that medical and public health authorities should not place any quarantine facility in New Kru Town, West Point, Slip Way, Clara Town, or Buzzy Quarter, or any slum community for that matter,” he said.
Redemption Hospital was a major quarantine center in 2014 during the Ebola outbreak in Liberia that claimed over 5,000 lives across the country, and the hospital is where the effort to make a vaccine for the disease began.
According to the government, the move to have a quarantine and observation center at Redemption Hospital would mean no harm because quarantine centers are built in line with international standards to hold any kind of disease and the nurses are trained to handle infectious diseases.
The government through Mosoka P. Fallah, Acting Executive Director of the National Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), explained that at the close of Ebola, they along with international partners identified five isolation centers across the country, called INSIITU, to serve as isolation and treatment centers for infectious diseases.
These centers, according to Dr. Fallah are located in Gbarnga, Fish Town, Lofa and Monrovia (Redemption Hospital).
Dr. Fallah added: “The goal was to avoid the mistakes from Ebola where it took us long to build Ebola treatment center while people were dying. Redemption was selected because of the population that could be readily accessible. It is built to avoid anything from being exposed to the people.”
According to Dr. Fallah, the site at Redemption is currently in use, as infectious patients are currently being treated there.
“This is not about the place but the structural engineering put in place to eliminate threats to the population. Even as I speak to you we are managing a Lassa patient there over the last several days but no one knows. Lassa [fever] is a small brother to Ebola. We do not have the time or the financial resources to build an INSIITU of that nature now [elsewhere],” Dr. Fallah said.
Before Dr. Nyan voiced out his reservation about there being a quarantine facility at Redemption Hospital, Montserrado County District #16 Representative, Dixon Seeboe, criticized the government’s move and vowed to resist any attempt by the government to have coronavirus patients quarantined at the Redemption Hospital.
Rep. Seeboe, like Dr. Nyan, said New Kru Town was too densely populated to have a quarantine center there.
“The Ebola outbreak of 2014 made it even worse. Besides, the country is very limited in its diagnostic capabilities for infectious diseases,” he said. “There is a huge lack of in-country infectious disease expertise, and the limited budgetary support to the healthcare, in general, makes the government of Liberia less prepared to respond effectively was there an outbreak of coronavirus.”
Currently, the coronavirus has killed more than 630 people, the majority in China. Globally, it has infected over 31,400 people across 25 countries and territories. It spreads from person to person in close proximity, similar to other respiratory illnesses, such as the flu and proplets of bodily fluids – such as saliva or mucus – from an infected person are dispersed in the air or on surfaces by coughing or sneezing.
According to scientists, these droplets can come into direct contact with other people or can infect those who pick them up by touching infected surfaces and then their face since coughs and sneezes can travel several feet and stay suspended in the air for up to 10 minutes.