The Ministry of Health and social Welfare Monday (March 25) confirmed the death of five persons suspected to have contracted the deadly Ebola hemorrhagic fever in Lofa County.
Liberia’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Bernice Dahn, said all of the five suspected cases were people who came from Guinea for treatment at hospitals in Foya and Zorzor Districts in Lofa County.
Ebola hemorrhagic fever is a severe and often deadly illness that can occur in humans and primates (e.g. monkeys, gorillas).
Ebola hemorrhagic fever has made worldwide news because of its destructive potential.
Dr. Dahn, according to the Liberia News Agency (LINA), said four of the dead are female adults, while the fifth casualty was a male child.
Media report over the weekend disclosed and outbreak of the Ebola virus in Guinea has hit the Liberian border in Lofa.
The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and its partners have dispatched an assessment team to Lofa County, to investigate the situation by tracing contacts, collecting blood samples and sensitizing local health authorities about the disease, according to Dr. Dahn.
The assessment team also took with them protective equipment such as face masks, gloves and goggles to protect health workers in affected facilities.
She told an emergency press conference that the team also took with them chlorine to disinfect the affected hospitals, as surveillance along the border is being strengthened.
The current outbreak of the deadly hemorrhagic Ebola Disease, according to Dr. Dahn, started in the Guinean towns of Guekedou, Nzerekore, Kissidougou and Macenta which are very close to the Liberian border.
The Chief Medical Officer then called on Liberians to avoid direct contact with body fluids of infected or dead people as well as physical contacts such as kissing and handshakes.
She also advised Liberians in the affected areas to wash their hands frequently, avoid direct contacts or consumption of animals such as fruit bats and monkeys, and to always chlorinate their drinking water in order to prevent this deadly disease.
According to Dr. Dahn, sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, as well as internal and external bleeding are all symptoms of the deadly Ebola virus and as such, persons suspected to be suffering from Ebola should be taken to the nearest health center immediately.
From Guinea To Liberia
Neighboring Guinea last week received confirmation that a mysterious disease that has killed up to 59 people in the West African country, and may have spread to neighboring Sierra Leone, is the hemorrhagic fever Ebola, the government said on Saturday.
Cases of the disease – among the most virulent pathogens known to infect humans, with a fatality rate of up to 90 percent – have been registered in three southeastern towns and in the capital Conakry since February 9. It has never before been recorded in Guinea.
“It is indeed Ebola fever. A laboratory in Lyon (France) confirmed the information,” Damantang Albert Camara told Reuters.
Six of the 12 samples sent for analysis tested positive for Ebola, Dr. Sakoba Keita, who heads the epidemics prevention division at Guinea’s health ministry, told Reuters.
He added that health officials had registered 80 suspected cases of the disease, including 59 deaths.
“But you have to understand that not all the cases are necessarily due to Ebola fever. Some will have other origins, including a form of severe dysentery,” Keita said.
World Health Organization (WHO) officials said that cases showing similar symptoms, including fever, diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding, had also been reported in an area of Sierra Leone near the border with Guinea.
Sierra Leone’s chief medical officer, Dr. Brima Kargbo, said authorities were investigating the case of a 14-year-old boy who died in the town of Buedu in the eastern Kailahun District.
The boy had traveled to Guinea to attend the funeral of one of the outbreak’s earlier victims.
Kargbo said a medical team had been sent to Buedu to test those who came into contact with the boy before his death.
The international medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) announced on Saturday it was reinforcing its medical and logistics teams in Guinea in response to the epidemic.
It is also flying in 33 metric tons of medicines and equipment and is setting up isolation units in the three affected towns in Guinea.
“These structures are essential to prevent the spread of the disease, which is highly contagious,” Dr. Esther Sterk, MSF’s tropical medicine adviser, said in a statement. “Specialised staff are providing care to patients showing signs of infection.”
Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with infected animals including chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines, according to the WHO.
The disease, which is transmitted between humans through contact with organs, blood, secretions, or other bodily fluids, is most commonly found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, South Sudan and Gabon.
Though no epidemics of the disease have been recorded among humans in West Africa, a variety of Ebola infected a colony of chimpanzees in Ivory Coast’s Tai National Park, near the country’s border with Liberia, in 1994.
A Swiss scientist, who performed an autopsy on one of the infected animals, contracted the disease but later recovered.
Ebola hemorrhagic fever (Ebola fever) is caused by a virus belonging to the family called Filoviridae. Scientists have identified five types of Ebola virus.
Four have been reported to cause disease in humans: Ebola-Zaire virus, Ebola-Sudan virus, Ebola-Ivory Coast virus, and Ebola-Bundibugyo. The human disease has so far been limited to parts of Africa. Writes D K Sengbeh, with additional reports from LINA and Reuters