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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Liberia conquers Ebola !!!

The chief of staff for the Armed Forces of Liberia, Brig. Gen. Daniel D. Ziankahn Jr., hung up his navy blue suit, put on a bright yellow jersey and shorts, then bounded toward a sandy field.  Nine months earlier, his soldiers fired live rounds into the seaside slum of West Point and beat residents after rioting broke out on the first day of a government quarantine of the neighbourhood during the Ebola epidemic. ~ today, things have changed for the better....

Liberia  is in West Africa bordered by Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast to its east. It covers an area of 111,369 square kilometres (43,000 sq mi) and is home to about 4 million people. English is the official language and over thirty indigenous languages are also spoken within the country. Liberia is the only country in Africa founded by United States colonization while occupied by native Africans.  Liberia has been in news for wrong reasons – for the dreaded ‘ebola’.

Ebola virus disease (EVD), Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF), or simply Ebola is a disease of humans and other primates caused by an ebola virus.  The virus may be acquired upon contact with blood or bodily fluids of an infected human or other animal. Fruit bats are believed to be a carrier and may spread the virus without being affected. Once human infection occurs, the disease may spread between people, as well.  The first human outbreaks occurred in 1976, one in northern Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) in Central Africa: and the other, in southern Sudan (now South Sudan). The virus is named after the Ebola River, where the virus was first recognized in 1976.

The dreaded ebola killed thousands in Liberia – schools were closed and whole Nation brought to a standstill as combined efforts were made to contain the virus.   The good news for the global community now is – the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that the Ebola outbreak in Libera is over – ‘it is no longer ebola killing people – ebola itself is dead’- there haven’t been any new cases for the past 42 days.  The country still remains on  high alert, as new Ebola cases are still being reported in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Stamping out an epidemic of a deadly infectious disease is a great achievement for any country. Liberia’s triumph is more remarkable still given the country’s poor access to healthcare.  Although Liberia reported fewer total cases than Sierra Leone during the 15-month-long epidemic, it was the hardest hit of the three West African countries. As of May 8, Liberia counted 4,716 Ebola deaths, compared to 2,387 in Guinea and 3,904 in Sierra Leone.

The WHO gives three reasons for Liberia’s success. First, president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made tough, aggressive decisions to control the spread. Second, the pace with which community engagement initiatives helped spread health information and got people to work together. And, third, the successful integration of international partners in combating the epidemic.

Liberia’s achievement raises hopes for Sierra Leone and Guinea, where only nine new cases were reported in the week of May 3. In these countries, Ebola’s geographic spread is now much more contained than it had been at the epidemic’s peak. However, the onset of the rainy season—which can make it even harder to access healthcare and maintain good hygiene practices—means controlling new cases in remote areas will be increasingly difficult.  The biggest challenge to overcome, however, is going to be “hidden” cases. Whenever a new Ebola case is detected, healthcare workers scramble to trace anyone who came in contact with the infected person during the previous 21 days, which is the amount of time the virus takes to show symptoms.

Officials in Monrovia, including ones from the WHO, held an elaborate opening ceremony for an Ebola hospital, but then a few hours later when patients arrived, no one came out to help them. Weakened by the virus, thepatients fell out of ambulances onto the ground. A doctor in a rural county begged authorities for an Ebola hospital, but no help arrived. He was forced to build one himself, where he managed to save many patients. Dr. Gobee Logan worked around the clock to help fight Ebola in Bomi County, Liberia.  In the Ebola-stricken country, there was a time  when protective gears were not available for health workers.  There was a time when the World was reading only the black side. Ebola patients stood in line to get into hospitals that didn't have a bed to spare. Thousands of children in West Africa were orphaned. Burial team sroamed the streets carrying victims to crematoriums.  At the height of the epidemic in September, any contact, even shaking hands, was forbidden. Now all that a thing of the past. 

Now, the Chief of Armed Forces is in a position to take rest - rather than manning a barricade, his troops are playing  soccer match intended to help repair the rift between the security forces and the residents of West Point. On Saturday, the day Liberia’s Ebola epidemic was officially declared over, the players scuffled and tumbled back and forth on a makeshift soccer pitch flanked by hundreds of community members, most of them cheering for the side in black, their own West Point All Star team.

“Liberia Conquers Ebola”- is of course the most encouraging news to read and share about ! 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
14th May 2015.

News source : BBC, Daily Mail and 

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