-Several dozens infected
The Incident Management System heading Liberia’s Ebola response under the Health Ministry has alarmed of increase of Ebola cases in Grand Cape Mount County, with 49 cases reported in the past 25 days.
Briefing reporters on Sunday, 28 December, the head of the IMS, Assistant Health Minister for Preventive Services, Tolbert Nyenswah, said Grand Cape Mount County was put in a “Red County category” as epidemiological map shows it has become second to Montserrado as the highest burdened Ebola affected counties here.
He says Montserrado County is still reporting the highest number of cases daily, naming West Point, New Kru Town, Plunker and other communities where according to him, cases are still being reported from.
But Mr. Nyenswah clearly ruled out any possibility that the just ended special senatorial elections held across Liberia had caused the re-enforcement of the deadly disease in Cape Mount.
He cited anti-Ebola measures that he said were enforced during voting, while squarely blaming the rise in new cases on “high level of complacency and gross disregard to preventive measures that were laid down by the Ministry of Health.”
He told reporters that migration of suspected and probable cases within and out of county, continuous denial by community dwellers that people are not dying from Ebola and traditional or cultural practices were still active in Grand Cape Mount as major causes of increase in Ebola infection there.
He argued that all of the measures needed were observed in Montserrado and other counties, as majority of the polling stations tested temperatures of voters and had hands washing buckets, among others.
“But the major thing that can spread and make people infected from Ebola is touching sick people – people who are infected with the virus, taking care of them, caring for them. And one of the major things is bathing dead bodies – these practices are happening right now in Grand Cape Mount that is increasing the disease,” he noted.
“So by going to vote, especially we took those measures; we believe that it couldn’t be the cause to escalate the situation in Cape Mount, but these traditional, cultural practices that are still entrenched in the people of that county and other areas, not Cape alone,” he added.
Besides what is being alarmed about Grand Cape Mount, Mr. Nyenswah said another case was reported in Montserrado County: “A dead body was dressed up as if it [were] a passenger in a taxicab and taken to Margibi County in Gibi District for burial.”
“And our team was able to track that down and arrested the situation immediately; and that body was tested EVD positive. So people are still practicing those measures that we frowned against and told them over and over that these measures will increase the cases of Ebola,” he said.
In the past 25 days – December 1 to 25, 2014, Mr. Nyenswah said 49 cases have been reported; 27 of them confirmed, nine probable and 13 suspected in the county with an estimated population of 140,991 and 524 communities within five health districts.
While alarming that disregard to preventive measures were not only observed in Grand Cape Mount but other parts of Liberia, he however said an Ebola lab is being installed in the County in addition to the dedication of an ETU today, December 29 in Sinje, with full support from UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, and WFP, saying, food is already moving in to support households that are under quarantine.
The Assistant Minister says both the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization are deploying people to help the county health teams, disclosing further that massive community engagement and community mobilization were already taking place in all of the five districts of Cape Mount.
At the same time, he disclosed that a 12- year-old girl with confirmed Ebola case from Zelequellie in Guinea had entered Nimba County and left several contacts, killing two victims, including herself.
Minister Nyenswah urged people in Nimba to be on full alert, as 46 contacts are being traced in the county, while warning people travelling to Grand Cape Mount to be careful.