Editor’s Note: The below article was submitted before the Government of Liberia’s major press conference Monday informing the public about the outbreak of the Ebola virus. These are the author’s views about GOL’s less-than-immediate response to a deadly epidemic.
The Ebola virus is knocking on the doors of Liberia; yet the government of Liberia has remained mute and immobilized. Zero attention is being paid to this virulent and deadly virus. Ebola is a virus that doesn’t discriminate among its victims. However, there has been no information given to the Liberia public about this impending disaster. To date, 59 Guinean citizens have succumbed to Ebola.
Guinea is a very close neighbor of Liberia. As a matter of fact, most of the produce and bush meat that are sold in Liberia are imported from Guinea; if not daily, then weekly. To those who think that avoiding purchases from local vendors is the solution, think again. One would be hard-pressed to inquire about the origins of the produce sold in the local supermarkets. The ingredients of most meals travel many paths before resting on various dining tables. Have I got your attention?
As defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Ebola hemorrhagic fever (Ebola HF) is one of numerous Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers. It is a severe, often fatal disease in humans and nonhuman primates (such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees). Ebola HF is caused by infection with a virus of the genus Ebola virus. When infection occurs, symptoms usually begin abruptly. The first Ebola virus species was discovered in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo near the Ebola River. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically.
There are five identified subspecies of Ebola virus. Four of the five have caused disease in humans: Ebola virus; Sudan virus; Taï Forest virus; and Bundibugyo virus. The fifth, Reston virus, has caused disease in nonhuman primates, but not in humans.
The USA Today, VOA, and the BBC have all reported this crisis in Guinea. Moreover, it was reported on Sunday, March 23 in the USA Today that one confirmed case had traveled to Liberia. I cannot impress any further upon the Ministry of Health the urgency needed in curtailing this virus.
I urge you to bring awareness to the general public in Liberia and begin reviewing and implementing any disaster response contingency plans immediately. Given the fragile infrastructure of the current healthcare system, any second spent on inaction is a death sentence. The Ebola virus is highly virulent. It is documented that the case mortality rate is up to 90%, according to the World Health Organization. Furthermore, I believe that this rate may be even higher because not every death is reported.
The Ebola virus is transmitted into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals. In Africa, infection has been documented by health officials through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found dead or ill in the rainforest.
To the public, it would be advisable to wash your hands, produce, and refrain from making purchases from vendors that are importing their goods from Guinea for now. Be vigilant and pay attention to your vendors. Some of the signs and symptoms of Ebola are very similar to those of malaria. Do not be mistaken. There is no treatment or vaccine available.
Symptoms of Ebola HF typically include:
· Joint and muscle aches
· Stomach pain
· Lack of appetite
Some patients may experience:
· A Rash
· Red Eyes
· Sore throat
· Chest pain
· Difficulty breathing
· Difficulty swallowing
· Bleeding inside and outside of the body
Not every case would result in death; it all depends on one’s personal health status and innate immunity. Nevertheless, the lack of proper education and awareness about the Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever in Liberia would be a great disservice to the Liberian people.