The Principal Investigator of the Ebola Natural History Study program in Liberia, Dr. Masuka Fallah has given hope to survivors across the country, saying though the study last for five years, but that does not mean Ebola survivors will die within this period.
He said this is the fear most survivors have that they are going to die. “And let me make this clear that no one is going to die”, he assured. He said PREVAIL has concluded data analysis on about 174 survivors, and 1,700 close contacts, adding “from our analysis, we were able to identify some of the close contacts, but our main focus was the baseline analysis since they enroll into the Ebola Natural History Study to be able to provide the data that was generated from these survivors after the six months period.”
Dr. Fallah disclosed that survivors were faced with lot of complications after they were pronounced Ebola freed by various health centers across the country. “Though Liberia was declared Ebola freed for the second time by the World Health Organization or WHO, but we health experts wanted to find the cause of complication that survivors were encountering”, he said.
The chief investigator told reporters during a recent briefing at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism that much need to be done in terms of finding causes of complications that survivors were faced with, saying “When they had survived from the virus, it is our understanding that the virus still lives in certain parts of their bodies, including the semen of male survivors.”
According to him, several tests and investigation show that the virus still lives in the semen of many survivors, and at such, it still has the ability to endanger their health.
Quite recently, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone – the three countries that suffered the deadly Ebola disease came together to discuss the issue of virus persistence, and complication that citizens of the three countries are encountering though they are no longer Ebola patients.
Dr. Fallah added that frequent questions people always ask are how survivors are encountering these problems, and will they improve in their condition after these complications. He said though the study last for five years, but what have been so far observed was that people were living with these survivors, adding these are things that cause the huge number of close contacts.
He said based on studies carried out, the program was looking at about 1000 survivors, who suffered complications, including breast pain, back pain, and virus in the semen, among others, but it was discovered that 38 of them had problems such as memory lost and weakness.
The Principal Investigator said all of these conditions make survivors incapable of living a full productive life, so PREVAIL’s main focus was to identify species of the virus in the semen. “We tested about 193 men since July 2015, but 75 percent of those men, some were positive and negative.”
By Lewis S. Teh-Editing by Jonathan Browne