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WHO warns of complacency

The World Health Organization (WHO) Assistant Director General for Polio and Emergencies has joined calls to all Liberians not to begin relaxing the measures aimed at stopping the transmission of the Ebola virus disease that has ravaged Liberia and its two neighbors, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Dr. Bruce Aylward said there were still traces of the virus popping up in a number of areas across the country and any change in attitude in relation to the Ebola fight could be devastating on the population.

An Executive Mansion release said the WHO Assistant Director General made the comments during a courtesy call on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at her Foreign Ministry office on Thursday, November 13, 2014. The Canadian physician and epidemiologist caution comes in the wake of reports of new Ebola cases springing up in Bong, Grand Cape Mount, and Rivercess Counties.

Dr. Aylward said Liberia now stands the chance to record zero new case in the coming months but this will only become a reality if Liberians maintain those measures put into place by health authorities to fight the Ebola virus disease.

The WHO Assistant Director General, however, said he was happy that Liberia now knows the enemy they are fighting unlike few months back when they knew little or nothing about the disease which he said greatly contributed to the huge devastation it has had on the country. “This knowledge of the virus and sticking to measures put in place has scored progress for Liberia,” Dr. Aylward said.

On behalf of WHO Director General Margaret Chan, he thanked President Sirleaf for the leadership demonstrated that has seen a drastic reduction in the number of new cases over the past three weeks.

Dr Aylward believes that now is the time now for Liberians to hunt the virus instead of the other way around when thousands died in a short period of time not knowing what they were confronting. He said Ebola as a virus disease does not hide itself. Rather, people hide it; unlike a disease like polio indicating that only a united front can perform the task of defeating the disease.

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Responding, President Sirleaf said Liberians were still committed to the fight until the last virus is eradicated and equally expressed the fear that any change in behavior would be counterproductive to the Ebola fight. The Liberian leader re-echoed her statement as contained in her national wide address earlier in the day that Liberians intend to score a zero new case by Christmas as part of a national goal on the Ebola fight.

President Sirleaf said this goal will attempt to include communities to take ownership through sensitization and social mobilization. She said though this has been working in some communities, government and its partners intend to make it more robust and inclusive as there is no turning back in the eradication fight.

The Liberian President expressed the hope that the new cases being reported in Bong, Grand Cape Mount and Rivercess Counties would be put under control as government and its partners were not taking it lightly.

The WHO Assistant Director General joined the WHO in 1992 as a Medical Officer with the Expanded Programme on Immunization. Since 1998, Dr Aylward has been responsible for the oversight and coordination of all polio eradication activities across WHO’s Regional Offices and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative partnership. He oversaw and managed the scale-up of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which since 1997 has expanded to operate in every polio-affected country of the world and reduced the number of polio-endemic countries to three. Since 2011, Dr Aylward has led WHO’s work in preparedness, readiness and response to humanitarian emergencies as the lead agency of the Global Health Cluster.

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