The Daily Observer was informed late Sunday night by Health and Social Welfare Minister, Dr. (MD) Walter Traub Gwenigale that of the five blood samples sent to Lyons, France for testing, two tested positive with the Ebola virus, which has a “case fatality rate of 90 percent,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Now, of the two samples, one has already died in Foya, Lofa County and the other person was the sister of the dead person. This sister was the one looking after [the deceased] when she fell sick. Blood from her, too, tested positive,” Dr. Gwenigale told the Observer.
According to him, his worries are now centered on the surviving sister of the deceased (both of their names remain unknown) as she reportedly travelled from Lofa to Firestone in Margibi County and likely interacted with several persons along the way. This opens a possibility that some of the people she interacted with on her way and since her arrival in Firestone have also become infected.
“We have informed Dr. Mabande who is the medical director there and they are trying to quarantine her,” Dr. Gwenigale said.
The Health and Social Welfare Minister disclosed that authorities at the US Government’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, GA had also called him concerning the news from France, and said they (authorities at CDC) had already been briefed.
With reports of the outbreak of the Ebola virus in neighboring Guinea and confirmed cases in Lofa and suspected cases in Nimba Counties, the Mano River Union (MRU) Secretariat in Monrovia presented a check of US$10,000 to the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW).
This, according to the Deputy Secretary-General of the Mano River Union Secretariat, Koffi Kouman, is part of efforts to support the Government of Liberia in responding quickly to the “emergency.”
The MRU Secretariat presented the check to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare Friday, March 28.
Making the presentation, Mr. Koffi Kouman said it was the MRU’s way of showing solidarity with the government and people of Liberia.
Receiving the check, Health and Social Welfare Minister, Dr. Walter Gwenigale thanked the MRU Secretariat for the donation that would enable the Ministry to increase public awareness and put in place the necessary mechanisms to prevent the spread of the virus into Liberia.
In a telephone interview with the Observer Sunday, March 30, Dr. Gwenigale reiterated his thanks to the MRU Secretariat, but stated that the Ministry has made a budget of US$1.2 million and that the MRU’s amount was a “drop in the bucket.” The Minister urged all of the MOH’s partners to help raise the money for the containment of the disease that is now confirmed to be in Liberia.
The Health Minister disclosed that he presented the US$10,000 check to the head of the National Public Emergency Task Force (NPETF). The NPETF is coordinating efforts curtailing the spread of the Ebola virus, which, since its outbreak in neighboring Guinea, has claimed the lives of at least 65 persons in regions very close to the Liberian bordering counties of Lofa and Nimba.
On the use of the US$1.2 million, of which the MRU’s donation is part, Dr. G stated that a daily subsistence allowance (DSA) for those health workers in the suspected counties, fuel and gasoline for vehicles and generators and protective gears for the health workers, among others, would also come from the money.
However, Mr. Thomas Nagbe, Director of Disease Prevention and Control at the Health Ministry, told the Observer that the task force has presently received US$60,000. He said US$50,000 of the amount was provided by the GoL and the US$10,000 from the MRU Secretariat. Nagbe also stated that other partners, including UNFPA had come forward with material support.
He disclosed that beginning today, Monday March 31, the task force would dispatch re-enforcement teams to Lofa, Bong and Nimba Counties and a team would also go to Grand Cape Mount County. Though Grand Cape Mount County does not share a border with Guinea, it borders Sierra Leone; which also shares borders with Guinea and has reported suspected cases of the Ebola virus.
Action(s) Taken So Far
Even though the GOL had stated categorically that the Ebola virus was not anywhere in Liberia, the Health Ministry, in its Friday, March 28, update, said they and their partners have stepped up efforts and strategies to “prevent the spread of the Ebola virus from neighboring Guinea into Liberia.”
“The public information campaign has been intensified and hotlines established for the public to call and get basic information about the disease. The hotline numbers are 0770198517, 0777549805, 0886530260, 0886549805.”
Other ongoing efforts, according to the MOH, include the coordination of the planning and response efforts at both national and county levels, distribution of personal protective equipment sets to hospitals in Montserrado, deployment of two teams to Nimba and Bong counties to support the County Health Teams, training of clinicians to create more awareness, resource mobilization, distribution of supplies to improve hygiene, water and sanitation in counties bordering Guinea, active and passive surveillance and case management in affected areas.
It also stated that its task force has printed awareness messages in various dialects and information fliers on Ebola have been produced and disseminated to the various counties as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the disease to Liberia.
The Health Ministry again reiterated its safety tips to the public: “Do not eat animals that are found dead in the bush, and avoid contacts with fruit bats, monkeys, chimpanzees, antelopes and porcupines. Limit as much as possible, direct contact with body fluids of infected persons or dead persons. Wash your hands with soap and water as frequently as possible. Treat your water with chlorine before drinking.
EBOLA OUTBREAK TIMELINE:
Monday, March 24, The Daily Observer broke the news that Liberia was threatened with possible outbreak of Ebola within its border after Guinea has lost at least 59 of its citizens to the deadly disease, which started wreaking havoc since February 7.
Tuesday, March 25, The GoL, including the Ministries of Information, Culture and Tourism and Health and Social Welfare, along with the World Health Organization Office in Liberia, had a major press conference on March 24, in which they told the nation that Ebola has crossed over into Liberia. They further stated that as of March 24, six persons had been affected and that it had claimed at least five lives: three of which died on Liberian soil and two returned to Guinea and expired there. They said that the last of the six, a female child, was undergoing treatment at a medical facility in Zorzor, Lofa County.
Wednesday, March 26, The Daily Observer Nimba County Correspondent, Ishmael Menkor, was told by Dr. Claude Monga, Acting Chief Medical Officer of Ganta Hospital, that the hospital on Monday transferred two patients suspected of contacting the Ebola virus to the JFK Medical Hospital in Monrovia. And on the evening of same day, the Observer was reliably hinted to by a credible source at the JFK that one person had been quarantined within its (JFK) facility. That person, according to our source, had shown symptoms of the Ebola virus.
Thursday, March 27, The GoL, having told the nation on Monday, March 24, that Ebola had crossed over into Liberia, summersaulted on Wednesday and said that Ebola was not in Liberia. They dropped the number of fatalities to four; however, they maintained the six cases. Health and Social Welfare Minister Gwenigale also told the Observer that the report of one patient being quarantined at JFK was not true. JFK Hospital also issued a release denying reports that Ganta Hospital had transferred suspected Ebola patients to it.
Friday, March 28, The Senate Chairman on Gender, Health, Social Welfare, Women and Children Affairs, Senator, Dr. (MD) Peter S. Coleman, briefed the Senate Plenary. He told his colleagues that a budget in the tune of US$1.2 million had been drawn up to help contain apparent discovery of Ebola virus within the MRU sub-region. ECOWAS also described the news of the Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea and it spread as “threat to regional security.”
Meanwhile, Reuters news agency reports that Senegal has closed its southern border with Guinea to prevent the spread of the disease.