President Weah Heightens Health Surveillance amid Ebola Deaths along Liberia-Guinea Border

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MONROVIA – Ebola, Liberia’s nightmare next to the civil war, is very close to home again, but the government has assured the public of response measures that would ensure that it does not cross over from neighboring Guinea into the country like it did in 2014.

Over the weekend, the Guinean government reported three deaths that resulted from the deadly Ebola Virus Disease, stating that they have now entered into an epidemic situation.

The cases marked the first known resurgence of Ebola in West Africa since the 2013-16 epidemic that began in Guinea and killed more than 11,300 people across the region, Liberia being the most affected.

A World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Conakry said the agency would send help quickly, according to media report.

Sakoba Keita, the head of the National Agency for Health Security, according to the Daily Mail, said one person had died in late January in Gouécké, south-east Guinea, near the Liberian border. The victim was buried on 1 February “and some people who took part in this funeral began to have symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, bleeding and fever a few days later”

Samples tested by a laboratory set up by the EU in Guéckédou, located in the same region, revealed the presence of Ebola in some of them on Friday, said Keita. He added that with a total of seven cases and three deaths, Guinea was in an “Ebola epidemic situation”.

The WHO representative Alfred George Ki-Zerbo told a press briefing: “We are going to rapidly deploy crucial assets to help Guinea, which already has considerable experience [treating the disease]. The arsenal is stronger now and we will take advantage of that to contain this situation as fast as possible.

“The WHO is on full alert and is in contact with the manufacturer [of a vaccine] to ensure the necessary doses are made available as quickly as possible to help fight back.”

The WHO has regarded each new Ebola outbreak since 2016 with great concern, treating the most recent one, in DRC, as an international health.

Samples tested by a laboratory set up by the EU in Guéckédou, located in the same region, revealed the presence of Ebola in some of them on Friday, said Keita. He added that with a total of seven cases and three deaths, Guinea was in an “Ebola epidemic situation”.

The WHO representative Alfred George Ki-Zerbo told a press briefing: “We are going to rapidly deploy crucial assets to help Guinea, which already has considerable experience [treating the disease]. The arsenal is stronger now and we will take advantage of that to contain this situation as fast as possible.

“The WHO is on full alert and is in contact with the manufacturer [of a vaccine] to ensure the necessary doses are made available as quickly as possible to help fight back.”

The WHO has regarded each new Ebola outbreak since 2016 with great concern, treating the most recent one, in DRC, as an international health emergency.

Heightened Surveillance in Liberia

President George Weah on Sunday instructed all stakeholders in the health sector to heighten the country’s the country’s epi-surveillance and preventative activities in the wake of reports of the emergence of the deadly virus disease in neighboring Guinea.

“The President’s instruction is intended to ensure Liberia acts proactively to avoid any epidemic situation, the kind Liberia witnessed in 2014,” a statement from the Executive Mansion indicated.

President Weah has also mandated the health authorities to immediately engage communities in towns and villages bordering Guinea and increase anti-Ebola measures.

“While the health authorities are urged to increase their alert level, the general public is assured that there is no case of Ebola in Liberia and that the government is undertaking all measures to ensure that the public remains safe from the deadly virus,” the statement added.

History of Ebola in Liberia

Liberia was most hit by the Ebola outbreak after its discovery in the country on March 24, 2014. Before the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic, Liberia struggled with a very weak health system that was devastated and weakened by a protracted civil war. It had just 50 doctors for its 4.3 million population with poor capacity to respond to an epidemic of that magnitude. The Ministry of Health, with support from WHO, led the response to stop the outbreak and together with partners, mobilized both human and material resources to end the outbreak in 2015.

By the end of the outbreak a total of 4810 deaths were recorded out of 10678 confirmed cases in Liberia. The epidemic had severe and devastating impacts on the health system of Liberia, including health workforce and supply chain. It stalled progress across the health sector, including progress towards achieving the MDGs. It caused a deceleration of progress in reducing mortality due in part to the deaths resulting from Ebola directly. Similar deceleration in the mortality rate due to malaria could be attributed to the disruption to malaria treatment interventions. A 50% reduction in access to healthcare services during the Ebola outbreak was estimated and this exacerbated malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis mortality rates. Other services affected included limited access to Caesarian sections and clinic attendance of under-5 children, with a likelihood of a resultant high morbidity and mortality.

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