The Liberian Minister of Health, Dr. Walter Gwenigale, announced on Tuesday that the deadly Ebola virus has been confirmed in Liberia. Identifying Lofa and in particular the area of Foya as an important area in the fight against the spreading outbreak, Medecin San Frontier has placed a treatment center near the border of Liberia and Guinea. The hope is that those who have crossed the border into Liberia in order to seek treatment will instead stop at the treatment center near the border rather than cross into Liberia.
According to the WHO office in Liberia and the Ministry of Health, the Ebola virus, which wages war on the vascular system, takes approximately 45 days before an area can be safely deemed to be free of the disease. It takes anywhere from three to 21 days for Ebola to incubate.
During the press conference by the Ministry of Information, Gwenigale also warned Liberians that in addition to holding hands and kissing, behaviors in which Liberians had previously been advised not to engage, the virus can be spread through sexual contact. This type of exposure could be avoided if Liberians would refrain from having sex while the virus is considered active in their area, leaving many Liberians frustrated with the call to avoid sex until the virus is contained.
Gwenigale also stated during the conference that people who are found to have Ebola in Liberia will be isolated to prevent contaminating others. Bodies of those who die from Ebola are also not to be delivered to funeral homes, as contact with the dead body could contaminate others. He urged that those bodies be given to people specially trained in burying them so as not to spread the virus.
Journalists have also been asked to refrain from seeking out those with the disease in order to tell their stories, instead asking them to rely on the information released by the Ministry of Health.
Although hunting and eating wildlife is a way of life for Liberians, WHO and Gwenigale also ask that people refrain from eating “bush meat” such as chimpanzee, fruit bat, and monkey, which is also a source of Ebola.
Unlike Senegal, which has closed its border to Guinea because of the outbreak, Liberia has no plans to do so and has stated that they are not legally allowed to do so by international treaty. It is estimated that the country will require approximately $1.2 million dollars in order to properly educate its citizens, treat the virus, isolate those who contract it, and work to contain the deadly outbreak. To date, Liberia has confirmed eight cases and six deaths from Ebola, which is highly contagious and easily transferred by contact with infected blood and bodily fluids. Sierra Leone, which also borders Guinea, reports five cases that have yet to be confirmed.
The disease, which has no vaccine or effective treatment, is one of the most deadly pathogens in the world. Depending upon the strain of the particular virus, it can have a fatality rate of up to 90 percent.
By Jennifer Pfalz