Sierra Leone Telegraph: 1 April 2016
Liberia has suffered another setback today in its fight against the Ebola epidemic, after it was declared free of the virus and its transmission three months ago.
Last week, new cases of infection were confirmed in neighbouring Guinea, prompting fears of a new wave of resurgence in the region.
WHO today announced that hundreds of people believed to be contacts of eight confirmed cases in Guinea have been vaccinated with the experimental Merck vaccine, and kept in quarantine.
The 30 year old woman who died in Liberia was being transported to hospital in the capital Monrovia yesterday, Thursday when she was pronounced dead.
Earlier this week, following the recommendation of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee, WHO declared that the Ebola epidemic in West Africa no longer represents a public health emergency of international concern.
In its statement, WHO said Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone “now have the detection and response capacities in place to effectively manage ongoing flare-ups of Ebola,” pointing to the swift response and rapid containment of recent small outbreaks.
But WHO reiterated that additional flare-ups of the disease are expected in the months to come, largely due to virus persistence in some survivors, and that the three countries must remain on high alert and ready to respond.
WHO says it has maintained close to 1,000 experienced staff in the region, ready to contribute to emergency response operations if needed, while working to recover and strengthen health systems in the three countries.
A statement released today by WHO about the death of the woman in Liberia, reads: “Lab results confirm a new case of Ebola virus disease in Liberia — a 30-year-old woman who died yesterday afternoon, while being transferred to a hospital in the capital Monrovia.
“Liberia’s Ministry of Health, WHO and partner agencies immediately sent a team to the community outside Monrovia where the woman lived and the clinic where she was being treated to begin case investigation and identification of individuals who may have been in contact with her.
“Liberian health authorities convened an emergency meeting early this morning with key partners to coordinate and plan a rapid response.
“This latest case marks Liberia’s third flare-up of Ebola virus disease since its original outbreak was declared over on 9 May 2015. The last flare-up in the country began in November 2015 and ended 14 January 2016. Neighbouring Guinea is also responding to a new cluster of Ebola cases in its southern prefecture of Nzérékoré.”
Liberia had closed its borders immediately after Guinea announced a resurgence of the virus in its territory on the 17th March, just ten days after Sierra Leone was once again declared Ebola free by the WHO.
Whether today’s case in Liberia can be traced to the latest outbreak in Guinea is unclear. But what is certain is that the government of Sierra Leone yesterday announced new measures to protect its communities along the border with Guinea.
This is what the statement from State House in Freetown says: “The general public is hereby informed that following a meeting held at State House between the president, relevant sectoral ministers and the national security team on the resurgence of the Ebola virus disease in Guinea, the president has directed that the following measures be implemented in our border areas with Guinea with immediate effect:
“That military aid to the civil police (MAC-P) be invoked in our border areas with Guinea; that Ebola protocols, including screening and surveillance activities be instituted in all border crossing points with Guinea; that the national disaster management team should undertake a visit to the border regions with Guinea, especially the Kailahun axis, with a view to heightening awareness and Ebola prevention control measures among the people in these areas; the public is also advised to restrict movement to and from Guinea.
“Sick people and corpses from Guinea for burial in Sierra Leone should not be allowed during this time; meanwhile, government will continue to monitor the situation in Guinea closely and the general public is hereby encouraged to cooperate with the security and health personnel to keep Ebola in check.”
More than 11,000 have died of the Ebola virus in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in the last two years.