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Monday, August 24, 2015

after Liberia, Sierra Leone too is getting rid of dreaded Ebola

This is leone – the currency of Sierra Leone. It is subdivided into 100 cents.  Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa with Freetown as its capital.


In May 2015, the neighbouring Liberia celebrated.  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. Liberia is the only country in Africa founded by United States colonization while occupied by native Africans.  Liberia had 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 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 in May 2015 was  – the World Health Organization (WHO)  declaring  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 good thing is spreading across the border ….. use of rapid response teams and strong community involvement in finding Ebola virus disease cases and contacts has yielded  results in Sierra Leone. An epidemiological week has since passed with no new Ebola cases for the first time since the beginning of the outbreak.  According to authorities, the Ebola response has moved to "phase 3"’, focusing on tracking each and every chain of Ebola virus transmission and closing down the remaining chains as quickly as possible. Sierra Leone is now down to a single chain of transmission, which started in Freetown but sparked a cluster of cases in Tonkolili, in the northern region of the country.Effectively tracking chains of transmission means finding every person who has been in contact with someone proven to be infected with Ebola, monitoring them closely for symptoms for 21 days and rapidly moving them to a treatment centre if they develop symptoms of potential Ebola.

Tonkolili had not seen a case of Ebola virus disease for more than 150 days, but the lessons learned during the outbreak in December 2014 had not been forgotten. For the first time since the Ebola outbreak was declared in Sierra Leone, the country has recorded zero new infections.There were no new Ebola cases reported last week according to the WHO.At the height of the outbreak Sierra Leone was reporting more than 500 new cases a week. Last week, for the first time since May last year, there were zero new cases.

But authorities are warning against complacency. The Director of the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC), said: "This does not mean Sierra Leone is suddenly Ebola free.  According to him, as long as the country has one Ebola case, people should still be cautious, continue to take the public health measures... around hand-washing, temperature checks, enhanced screening.

In the country, over 1,000 people have died from Ebola since the epidemic erupted in 2014 - a six-fold increase of victims since its discovery in 1976. On the economic front,  Sierra Leone said, gold exports had plunged three-fold and diamond exports nearly halved in the first half of 2015, a sign of the devastation wrought on the mining industry by the Ebola epidemic."The whopping 297 percent drop in gold export is not unexpected given that the deadly Ebola virus was raging through the countryside by then driving the workforce from the mining fields and mine owners from the country," the NMA statement said.

Meanwhile, diamond exports dropped from a high of 64.5 thousand carats in April to 35.6 thousand carats in July.Already fragile after years of civil war, dictatorship or coups, the Ebola epidemic has devastated the mining, agriculture and tourism industries in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.Although poverty is widespread, Sierra Leone has mineral riches including diamonds, gold, bauxite, titanium ore and magnetite iron-ore, which have attracted massive investment.

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.  If that is replicated in neighbouring countries too, it is certainly good for the humanity.

With regards –  S. Sampathkumar

24th Aug 2015.

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