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CDC team visits Cape Mount

Dr. Agam Rao, medical officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, describes current status of Ebola outbreak in Grand Cape Mount County during CDC Foundation team visit to the County

A team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traveled to Grand Cape Mount County, an area of concern because of an uptick recently in Ebola cases there.  In the days before the team’s visit, 4 of 8 cases reported in Liberia were from Grand Cape Mount County, in Sinje.

A press release issued here says the team met with a group of community, traditional, and religious leaders to learn how they had been trained to recognize the symptoms of Ebola and what to do when a sick person is identified as having Ebola in their communities.  The training is supported by funds from the CDC Foundation and managed by The Carter Center’s Access to Justice Project. 

“Traditional chiefs and religious leaders are important for gaining trust and behavior change in communities,” said Pewee Flomoku, Chief of Party for The Carter Center project.  “We train them on how the virus spreads and the dangers of activities like unsafe burials.  These leaders are needed for community engagement and social mobilization to succeed.” 

The team also traveled to the county health office, and met with county health officials and a CDC field team temporarily based in Sinje.  Team lead Dr. Agam Rao explained the team’s ongoing work done in collaboration with county and district health officers, community health volunteers, and families in local villages to identify cases and contacts.  Through careful case-by-case analysis, the team has identified several lines of Ebola virus transmission that help explain how the infections occurred.  CDC field team members in Cape Mount County include Allison Arwady, Susan Hills, Ben Humrighouse, and Namita Joshi.

The hardest part of the day-long trip came when the team took a 30-minute ride over rough, rocky dirt roads to the small village of Camp 3, which has registered the largest number of recent Ebola cases in the county.  The traveling party, which included district health officers, was warmly welcomed in the village.  They met with the village chief and deputy chief, toured the village, and visited a quarantine tent, which had been provided with CDC Foundation funding, along with other Foundation-supplied items like cooking equipment. 

The village’s openness to the CDC Foundation visitors was a reflection of the trust built up over time by the work of the CDC field team. It underscores one of the challenges faced by field teams in Grand Cape Mount and other counties:  village resistance to responders and an unwillingness to share information about cases and contacts.

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”In Camp 3, as they’ve seen us around and understood that we’re here to help, they’ve become more accepting of us,” said Dr. Rao.  “But we’re still dealing with resistance in other communities. It continues to hamper our ability to respond because withholding information means incomplete contact lists, among other things.” 

As the visit drew to a close, Mr. Stokes spoke with several Ebola survivors and other villagers and thanked them for meeting with the team.  “These are important stories you’ve shared with us,” he told the villagers.  “You have shown us how this terrible disease affects communities like yours. We will continue to work with our friends to help bring an end to this epidemic.”

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