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ECOWAS on high Ebola alert

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Leaders in the West African sub-region have raised a red flag, calling for a concerted effort to battle the deadly Ebola Haemorraheagic fever which broke out in Guinea recently and spread across the borders here and to neighboring Sierra Leone.

Already health officials here say at least five Guineans who crossed the border into Liberia to seek treatment have died. The Liberian Government announced Wednesday that no new cases of Ebola infected patients have been reported since the last deaths in Lofa, a Liberian region bordering Guinea.

In an update on the virus Wednesday, the government said there was no need for panic, saying that two patients transferred from the Ganta Methodist Hospital Tuesday suspected to have contracted the virus were diagnosed and the test proved negative at the JFK.

It said samples from suspected persons have been forwarded to the French charity MSF in Guinea for preliminary examination, and further confirmation from the preliminary findings will be provided from Lyon, France. But at the regional level the Mediation and Security Council of ECOWAS, comprising Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense of the ECOWAS sub-region, has expressed deep concern over the outbreak, which it said, it considers a threat to regional security.

In a communique issued by the Mediation and Security Council at the end of its 31st Meeting in Yamoussokro, Cote d’Ivoire on March 25, 2014, the Council underscored the need for a robust regional response in putting a halt to the further spread of the deadly scourge.  The Council called on the President of the ECOWAS Commission, in consultation with the West African Health Organization (WAHO), to take appropriate and swift actions to mobilize the stakeholders and the needed resources to stem out the epidemic from the region. The Council also appealed to the International Community to assist the affected countries in the management of the Ebola epidemic in the region.

Speaking on the issue during the Council’s Meeting, Liberian Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan and his Guinean counterpart, Lounceny Fall, separately informed the Council about the extent to which the deadly disease has impacted their respective countries and steps that had been taken by their respective governments along with other partners to contain the outbreak.

Minister Ngafuan, quoting reports from the Liberian Ministry of Health, informed that the Liberian health facilities along the border with Guinea had recorded four deaths of Guineans Ebola victims who had crossed into Liberia for treatment. The Liberian Foreign Minister further informed the Council that, considering the contagious nature of the Ebola epidemic and the frequent cross-border movements by citizens of both countries for trading and other purposes, it was important that ECOWAS and other international partners move quickly in assisting Liberia and Guinea in containing the virus.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Minister of Guinea informed the Council that the Government of Guinea has initiated some preliminary measures with a view to preventing the contraction and spread of the Ebola epidemic. These measures include quarantining those diagnosed of the Ebola Haemorraheagic fever; and discouraging the consumption of bats which are believed to be transmitters of the Ebola virus.

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