The national and international publicity characterizing what may appear to be a gradual decline in the spread of the deadly Ebola virus disease in Liberia may not just be doing justice to the fight against the epidemic. As a result of such publicity, some Liberians have already begun disregarding most of the preventive measures put in place by the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and partners.
Of late in some parts of Monrovia and its environs, buckets for hand-washing may no longer visible at entrances of homes, as well as business centers, among others, while handshaking and hugging have resumed; commercial drivers are again carrying four passengers at the and two in the bucket seat of the taxi cabs, especially at night, while motor cyclists take two passengers as the police look on- all because, according to them, “Ebola is finishing.”
This is all because of the huge publicity accompanying what Liberian health authorities and some partners believe is a decline in the spread of the disease as shown by the reduction in the number of cases and deaths at the various Ebola Treatment Units or ETU, as well as communities and homes. Statistics released by Liberian Health Ministry authorities suggest that the number of people succumbing to the deadly Ebola virus in the country is slowing moving beyond 2,700 out of a total of about 5000 in the West African sub region.
While we do understand the anxiety on the part of Liberian health authorities and partners over any form of progress made in the battle against the virus, we think the rate of anti-Ebola activities must continue to supersede the level of publicity that should be given whatever progress that is being made, i.e., Ebola must continue to be treated as if the disease was just beginning or at its peak as we had in July and August of this year. Being cognizant of how we thought we had overcome the first Ebola Outbreak early this year, but later and up to present felt the pinch of a more‘re-enforced’ second outbreak, health authorities and partners must drastically reduce the publicity and further step up the anti-Ebola campaign.
As a way of completely eradicating the deadly disease, the community-based approach must now being re-enforced/strengthened more than ever before so that our goal as a nation is finally achieved against any other threat of Ebola- meaning even if Ebola should return in the future, Liberia would have already been prepared, and that if there should be cases and deaths, the situation wouldn’t be as we have now.
Even though medical studies may also attribute the reduction in the number of cases to the emergence of the dry season, considering the irresistible nature of the Ebola virus during such weather, health workers have, for the past months, in the vanguard of such level of progress as we may be experiencing in the fight against the disease.
As we appreciate the efforts of the Government of Liberia (Ministry of Health and Social Welfare) and international partners, as well as health workers across the country, the issue of publicity regarding “progress, decline and reduction” in Ebola must not over-ride our continuous efforts; we must behave as if the battle is still on against Ebola.
Perhaps, out of anxiety if we engage in huge publicity as we are having now, it is no doubt that the Liberian population would become very complacent as seen some quarters of the Liberian society wherein people have begun their normal handshaking and hugging, while taxi drivers have begun taking four passengers at the back and two at the front of their vehicles, among other pro-Ebola activities. And if this is not discouraged, a third Ebola outbreak may just be imminent.