Liberia’s Ebola fight not over

Liberian health workers

Liberian health workers

Despite tremendous efforts by Liberia and international partners to eradicate the deadly Ebola virus from the country, disappointing news was announced early this week that new cases of the disease have been reported in the West African country.

For the past few days, Liberia was only battling with the last five confirmed Ebola cases, but new cases were discovered in the St. Paul Bridge Community in Montserrado County

Addressing a press briefing Monday, Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah explained that the government has identified a fresh Ebola outbreak in the St. Paul Bridge area, describing it as “the St. Paul bridge cluster infection chain.”

Minister Nyenswah named Zubah town, Gbangay town as well as Crab Hole as major hotspots of the new Ebola outbreak.

“Five new cases have been reported in seven days in those communities. From Jan 12 to Feb 1, 2015, fifteen confirmed cases have been reported, all from Montserrado and seven cases are now in the ETU,”, Minister Nyenswah said. According to Minister Nyenswah, what is more troubling is that the contacts of the disease are escaping from the hotspot and moving in to unaffected regions in the country.

“They are denying and leaving Montserrado to go areas like Lofa, Margibi and Bomi that have been freed of Ebola for a very long time, but we brought them back so that they don’t infect those counties,” he said.

Nyenswah revealed that one of the escaped contacts died in Margibi County recently, but the Ministry is now testing specimen from the contact to determine the result. He indicated that another contact left the same St. Paul Bridge area and drove to the Bomi county Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) to report himself, despite the existence of several ETUs in Montserrado.

Said Minister Nyenswah:  “This is troubling! We have to stop in Montserrado County. When you are told that you are a contact, remain in your home for twenty-one days. We are not crazy people to say you are a contact. We prove epidemiologically that yes, you are a contact, that you have earlier a primary or secondary contact with a confirmed case.”

Speaking in a frustrated tone, the Assistant Health Minister said the government will not hesitate to invoke the Public Health law and the anti-Ebola regulation to punish people who will infect others by migrating from one community to another.

Text/Photo: Peter N. Toby