Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 January 2016
A woman has died of the Ebola virus after falling ill in the northern district of Tonkolili in Sierra Leone.
Doctors last night confirmed her death from the virus after two tests were conducted.
Although there are no other reports of Ebola like symptoms by people in the district, health workers are frantically trying to trace contacts of the deceased, and determine her movements in the last few weeks.
This news comes hours after the World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday declared West Africa free of the Ebola virus.
And it seems WHO is now engulfed in an embarrassing and controversial crisis, for its hasty decision to declare the Ebola crisis over, despite this suspected case in Tonkolili several days ago, that is now confirmed to be Ebola.
In 2014 WHO was strongly criticised in several reports for failing to act quickly and decisively in responding to the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Today, it is being accused of acting too hastily in declaring the region free of the virus.
After celebrating an end to the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone over two months ago, darkness descended upon health officials yesterday, when a spokesman for the health ministry – Yaya Tunis reported that; “A suspected Ebola death has been reported in Tonkolili District today. the Ministry of Health and Sanitation has dispatched a team, supported by international partners to investigate the suspected death and it’s circumstances.”
On the 10 January 2016, the Sierra Leone Telegraph reported that “It is now sixty-four days since Sierra Leone was declared Ebola free, but the risk of Ebola returning remains,” and returned it has from its leave of absence.
Is it possible to eradicate Ebola in Sierra Leone, given the obscene levels of poverty and poor sanitation that over 75% of the population are experiencing?
As the people of Sierra Leone now wait impatiently to find out whether this week’s death in Tonkolili is an isolated case or the start of new outbreak, serious questions must be asked about the surveillance systems that should have been in place in Tonkolili.
Once again it seems the authorities have been caught napping by Ebola. Whilst life may slowly be returning to normal in Sierra Leone, though with immense difficulty, there are tens of thousands of people who continue to suffer multi-morbidities since their recovery from the virus.
Would Sierra Leone now need to learn how best to cope with living with this deadly virus, amid the grotesque levels of poverty, and squalid conditions far too many people call their home?
The last two Ebola fatalities were recorded on the 11th to 16th September 2015. Total dead in the last 236 days now stands at 51 – up one; whilst total dead the last 346 days stands at 707. Total cumulative deaths since May 2014 – when official counting began has now gone up to 3,590.
The last reported case was in Bombali 123 days ago, on the 13th September. Total cumulative cases recorded in Sierra Leone, since May 2014 has gone up to 8,705.
All 103 cases recorded since the 19th May 2015, were found along the Freetown – Northern Ebola axis.
Cumulative cases found in Kailahun stands at 565, with 436 days of zero new cases; Kenema 503 cases, and 327 days without any cases; Kono 253 – no new cases in the last 324 days; Bombali 1,050 – and 123 days without any new cases; Kambia 259 – and 126 days without a new case; Koinadugu 109 – no new cases in the last 271 days; Port Loko 1,484 and zero new cases in the last 183 days.
Tonkolili – now has 458 cases, up one, after clocking 160 days without a single case of Ebola. Bo 314 – no new cases in the last 365 days; Bonthe 5 – no new cases in the last 391 days; Moyamba 209 – no new cases in the last 303 days; Pujehun 31 – no new cases in the last 412 days; Freetown 3,463 and Zero new cases in the last 159 days. No new cases have been found in the rural areas of the capital in the last 262 days.
As the Sierra Leone Telegraph continues to warn, the north – in particular Kambia, Port Loko, Bombali, Tonkolili and the capital Freetown, must remain on special Ebola watch, as the southern districts continue to show exemplary standards in the fight against the Ebola virus.
Fears about the continuing risk of the emergence of an isolated case of Ebola, and the advice for authorities in Sierra Leone to remain vigilant, have today been confounded.
How will the WHO and the government of president Koroma respond this time, after failing to act quickly and decisively in responding to the Ebola crisis in 2014?
Did the WHO act too hastily in declaring the end of Ebola in West Africa yesterday, just hours before the death of a woman was confirmed in Sierra Leone?