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Sierra Leone President to Visit Areas Hard-Hit by Ebola Friday

FILE - A health care worker dons protective gear before entering an Ebola treatment center in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
FILE - A health care worker dons protective gear before entering an Ebola treatment center in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma plans on Friday to visit parts of the country that have been severely affected by Ebola. The move is part of the government’s efforts to combat the spread of the virus, according to Abdulai Bayraytay, spokesman for the administration.

“The president will be traveling to lead the social mobilization [effort in] the rest of the country, starting in the north,” an trip which Bayraytay said includes flying to Kambia, then going by road to Port Loko, Lunsar, Makeni and Tonkolili.

He said congratulations are likely in order for parts of the south, including Pujehun district.

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“The reason being,” he explained, “is they have not been recording any case of confirmed Ebola for the past 41 days. So, tomorrow if the trend continues and if we go by what World Health Organization is saying, then Pujehun should be declared Ebola-free.”

He said the government has also decided to extend by two weeks a program to contain the virus in the western part of the country. The first phase of the program ended on December 31.

The second phase is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and other partners.

“In just two weeks we were able to account for 994 [suspected] cases [which] were all transported to holding centers just for the western area.” So far, he said, 263 positive have tested positive. "So this is a clear indication that if we [successfully] stepped up the effort particularly in the western area…I think we will be able to do more,” said Bayraytay.

Phase two will also include the creation of flyers and billboards, and the purchase of other material to address the public. It will also see an increase in surveillance and in the number of officials to trace the infection rate. And, the effort encourages residents to report to health officials Ebola infections in an effort to contain the virus at the community level.

Bayraytay said the government has also made nationwide progress in controlling the virus. He said the numbers are apparent at treatment centers.

“Out of the 263 confirmed cases, because …..they were given supportive care….we had [a survival rate of up to] 80 percent. So that is the message we want to drive home,” said Bayraytay.

He said government officials will meet representatives from the WHO, UNICEF and other partners to step up efforts to recruit and train locals in the fight against the disease.

He said the President of Mauritania Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who is also current chairman of the African Union, donated $300,000 to the government in Freetown to help the fight the virus.