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Liberia Works to Contain New Ebola Outbreak Amid Renewed Fear

  • Jennifer Lazuta

Health officials in Liberia's capital say that at least seven more people are believed to have died from the Ebola virus. These are the first reported deaths in Monrovia and the first new cases in the country in more than two months. The deaths have sparked fear the outbreak is no longer under control as authorities previously said.

Liberia’s Ministry of Health says the deadly Ebola virus has again made its way to the country.

Local officials say that seven people living in Monrovia have died from Ebola during the past several days, including a nurse and an infant child. Two of those cases have been confirmed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says there have also been six new suspected cases in the Foya district, in the north of the country.

These are the first reported cases of Ebola in Liberia since early April.

Looking for causes

The assistant minister for preventive services at the health ministry, Tolbert Nyensuah, explained the likely cause of the outbreak.

“The case that spread this disease to the rest of the people in Monrovia, that case was supposedly from Sierra Leone," he said. "There was a lady that came from Sierra Leone, through Foya, and got ill in Monrovia. Our surveillance team picked up this information, that people in a household were dying suddenly with unexplained deaths.”

The Ebola outbreak, which began in Guinea in February, made its way to neighboring Sierra Leone last month.

The WHO said Wednesday that 337 people across West Africa have died of the disease, including 24 in Liberia, 49 in Sierra Leone, and 264 in Guinea.

Monrovian resident, Leviticus Kollie, says these new cases in Liberia are worrying.

“A few weeks ago, a few months ago, we were told that Ebola was no longer around. Coming back for the second time, it [scares] everyone… We are hoping that that the Ministry of Health will do all it can to put the situation under control. I’m not prepared to die now. I’m not ready, I don’t want to die,” said Kollie.

National task force

To help contain the current outbreak, Liberia’s Ministry of Health says they have reactivated the national task force for Ebola and are holding daily meetings with partner organizations, such as the Liberian National Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to design strategies to deal with the resurgence.

More than 60 volunteers were also trained this week to act as surveillance teams in local communities. The country’s isolation unit has been reopened to deal with any suspected Ebola cases.

The Ministry’s Nyensuah said the most important thing now is for people to stay calm.

“The epidemiology of this disease is that it is not an airborne disease. It is a disease that occurs with very, very close contact," he said. "Contact with family members who are ill; contact with health care workers. And so there is no reason for the public to be panicked.”

Nyensuah said Liberians should, however, avoid all contact with anyone who is suspected of having contracted Ebola, as the virus is spread via bodily fluids, such as the sweat, blood and saliva, of an infected person - living or dead.

Prince Collins contributed to this report from Monrovia.