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Liberia Awaits Ebola-free Declaration to Remember its Victims

FILE - A woman is injected by a health care worker, left, as she takes part in an Ebola virus vaccine trial, at one of the largest hospital's Redemption hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, Monday, Feb. 2, 2015.

As the World Health Organization announced Liberia has had no new cases of Ebola since February 19, a health ministry official said it is not yet time to mourn the thousands who died - that must wait until the country is fully declared Ebola-free.

Tolbert Nyenswah, the assistant Minister of Health for Preventive Services, said the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is sympathetic to the families of the more than 4,000 who lost their lives to the Ebola virus.

Liberians Wednesday observed Decoration Day, a time for those who lost loved ones to decorate their graves.

Nyenswah said that while the WHO announcement is good news, Liberians must not become complacent until their country has been declared Ebola-free.

“We cannot absolutely say the Ebola crisis is behind us because we know that we have not gone two incubation periods that will qualify Liberia as being Ebola-free. Besides that, we have active transmission of the disease across our porous borders. And so, our focus now is active surveillance, especially at the border areas, to make sure that we keep surveillance of not only Ebola but other diseases of epidemic potential,” he said.

Nyenswah said Liberia has launched phase three in its effort to eradicate Ebola, focusing on early warning and response. The government is also calling on citizens to continue to abide by all the preventive measures that the Ministry of Health has put in place.

“For every sign and symptom that resembles Ebola, we do tests to rule out Ebola, first of all, number one. Number two, we got into partnership with funeral homes in Liberia. And so, if somebody dies in a health facility or even dies in the community and you are taken to a funeral home, we are doing mouth swabs to test whether or not the person died from Ebola,” he said.

Nyenswah said Liberians must continue to be vigilant because the country is not yet free of Ebola.

“We have not been declared free of Ebola and, therefore, we cannot carry on any memorial service as a country. The government is aware about people who lost their lives during this crisis, and their family members prayed for them,” he said

Nyenswah said the government offered prayers through the Liberian Council of Churches during a service marking Decoration Day on Wednesday. He said because Ebola had not yet been fully eliminated, the government will continue its anti-Ebola efforts.

He said that when Ebola is finally eradicated in Liberia, the country will officially remember the thousands who lost their lives to the virus.

Butty interview with Tolbert Nyenswah
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