DURING THE INITIAL outbreak of the Zika virus in the South American Country of Brazil months ago, we emphasized the need for the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Health, to begin preparing for any eventuality as a way of avoiding the unfortunate situation which characterized the deadly Ebola outbreak of 2014.
SUCH PREPARATION, AS emphasized in that editorial, would entail training of medical practitioners, most especially midwives and nurse midwives and awareness on the Zika Virus across the country, but little or nothing has ever been heard of any attempt to do so.
ZIKA IS REPORTED to be linked to neurological disorders, including babies being born with small brains. NOW ALARMINGLY, THE World Health Organization or WHO has just announced that the Zika virus strain – responsible for the outbreaks in Brazil, has been detected in Africa for the first time, with the concern that the latest strain was spreading and was “on the doorstep of Africa”.
THE WHO SPECIFICALLY mentioned that the virus is ‘currently circulating in Cape Verde’ – an archipelago off the North West Coast of Africa, with more than 7,000 suspected cases and 180 pregnant women thought to have been infected, while three babies have already been born brain damaged with microcephaly.
“THIS INFORMATION WILL help African countries to re-evaluate their level of risk and adapt and increase their levels of preparedness,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti – WHO Regional Director for Africa said, admonishing African countries to raise awareness among pregnant women of the complications with the Zika virus, as well as and encouraging people to protect themselves against mosquito bites and sexual transmission.
WHILE LIBERIAN HEALTH Ministry authorities and partners may have discounted the initial concern about the Zika virus raised by us –probably out of ignorance or weakness arising out of the fact that the disease was still at a distance in Brazil at the time, we, again, reiterate our concern and repeal to the Government of Liberia for immediate preparedness and action(s), now that the WHO has just announced the presence of Zika in the Northwest African State of Cape Verde – a distance just close to Liberia.
LET THE “SPREAD OF this disease” not take us by surprise or with “pants down” as occasioned by the deadly Ebola Virus disease in 2014. IT IS NO secret that Liberia still has a very, very weak health system at all levels, despite the inflated publicity of rebuilding.
THE TRAINING OF health workers must now start, while urgent priority is given to immediate proactive public awareness/sensitization for the entire population from a community-based approach, as well as through the radio, most especially the community radio network, with emphasis on the various Liberian vernaculars and simple Liberian English.
While we do not wish for the spread of this virus to our country, the fact that it in West Africa, the possibility of spreading to the rest of the sub region is very high owing to “our lackadaisical approaches” to engaging unfortunate situations which negatively impact lives.