Strict Measures Implemented in Liberia
In a bid to halt the continuing spread of the deadly virus, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has ordered the closure of most of Liberia’s border crossings and has ordered strict quarantines for those communities affected by the Ebola outbreak. The latest measures come just one month after the Liberian President warned that anyone caught hiding suspected Ebola patients would be prosecuted.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has announced the closure of most of Liberia’s land borders adding that stringent medical checks are being increased at those airports and major trade routes that will remain open. A statement released by the government indicated, “all borders of Liberia will be closed with the exception of major entry points,” adding that all these entry points will have preventive and testing centres. Three major border crossings, a provincial airport and Monrovia’s international airport are exempted from the closures. The government has also banned public gatherings of any kind, including events and demonstrations. Authorities have not disclosed how the long these closures will remain in place.
The announcement, which occurred late Sunday, came just one day after the Liberian President formed a new taskforce charged with containing the disease that has already killed 129 in the country and more than 670 in the West African region. According to a statement released by the President’s office, the special Ebola task force will ensure that “communities that are seriously affected will be quarantined and travels in and out of such communities restricted.” The new orders include strict observation at the international airport of all outgoing and incoming passengers, who are now liable for inspection and testing. All government facilities and public places will also install public access for washing of hands while all hotels, restaurants, and film centres are to play a five-minute information clip on Ebola awareness and prevention.
While Guinea has borne the brunt of the outbreak, in recent weeks, Liberia has seen a sharp rise in Ebola cases and deaths. Amongst those killed by the deadly virus is prominent Liberian doctor Samuel Brisbane, who died this past weekend after a three-week battle with the virus. Two American aid workers have also fallen ill. Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian charity, confirmed Sunday that its physician Kent Brantly was in stable condition and had been isolated at the group’s Ebola treatment centre at the ELWA hospital in Liberia’s capital Monrovia. The charity further disclosed that Nancy Writtebol, a missionary with the SIM Christian charity that runs that hospital, is also in stable condition. Ms Writtebol had been working as a hygienist responsible for detoxifying protective suits worn by those entering and exiting Ebola isolation centres. Dr Brantly is the medical director of the Samaritan’s Purse Ebola case management centre in Liberia, where the agency is continuing to work with Liberian and international health officials in a bid to contain the outbreak. He began working with the group’s Liberia team in October and since June, he has been focusing on Ebola patients.
Ebola Virus Spreads to Nigeria with first Confirmed Death in Lagos
On Friday, officials in Nigeria disclosed that the Ebola virus has caused the death of a Liberian national who died while in quarantine in Lagos. The announcement confirms that the worst-ever outbreak of the virus has now spread to Africa’s most populous country, which is already battling a deadly militant insurgency in the north.
Nigeria’s Health Minister Onyebuch Chukwu told journalists that “thorough medical tests” had confirmed “the virus of Ebola” as the cause of death. The 40-year-old Liberian national, who died overnight, had worked for the Liberian government and had travelled to Nigeria from Monrovia by air via Togo’s capital Lome. According to the Liberian government, the man’s final destination had been the southern city of Calabar, where he was scheduled to attend a meeting organized by the west African bloc ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States).
While fears are growing that the Ebola virus may rapidly spread in the populous city of Lagos, Nigeria’s Health Minister has attempted to calm local citizens, noting that upon the man’s arrival, he was transported directly to hospital, noting that the patient “avoided contact with the general public and that there was no time for him to mingle in Lagos.” According to Chukwu, “all the passengers that the patient came in contact with have been traced and are being investigated,” insisting that health officials have made direct contact with everyone on board the flight and are now monitoring their conditions. The patient had been flying on Togo-based ASKY Airlines.
In the wake of the first Ebola death in Nigeria, the country’s largest airline, Arik Air, has suspended all flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone. The company has disclosed that the decision to halt flights is a precautionary measure. A statement released by the airline, which operates routes across West Africa, indicated “we feel especially compelled to take the business decision to immediately suspend flight services into the two Ebola affected countries due to our interest in the well-being of Nigerians,” adding “we humbly suggest that as a first step, all inbound flights into Nigeria which originate from any of the Ebola affected countries, be immediately suspended.”
Nigeria has put all its entry points on red alert after confirming that a Liberian man died of Ebola after arriving at Lagos airport on Tuesday.
First Ebola Death Confirmed in Freetown
Meanwhile in Sierra Leone, a woman suffering from the first confirmed case of Ebola in the country’s capital city died Saturday after her parents forcibly took her from hospital. According to a statement released by the health ministry, Saudatu Koroma, a 32-year-old trainee hairdresser, was admitted to a clinic on July 23 had tested positive for the disease adding “her farther and mother forcibly took her away from the hospital” just two days after she was admitted.
While her disappearance prompted authorities in Freetown to broadcast a nationwide television and radio alert, which eventually persuaded her to return for treatment, Koroma died on Saturday while on her way to an Ebola treatment centre in the country’s east. According to an official, Koroma “…was severely dehydrated and weak and could hardly speak,” adding, “blood samples taken from both the father and mother are now being tested.” The house where Ms Koroma had lived in, in the eastern area of Freetown, has been quarantined over the past twenty-one days.
Sierra Leone’s health ministry confirmed Monday that an Ebola treatment centre has been established at Lakka Hospital, with health staff trained to handle the disease. Surveillance has also been increased throughout the country, with people now being requested to report all suspected cases to local health authorities.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of July 20, the number of Ebola cases recorded in the months-long epidemic stood at 1,093. This includes more than 660 deaths.