Ebola: we need to remain vigilant the fight continues
New cases of Ebola have been confirmed in Liberia, a harsh reminder that the disease is endemic in the region and demands an enhanced vigilance and reactivity. Action contre la Faim’s teams remain active and are leading the fight alongside the Liberian Ministry of Health and other partners.
The last declared Ebola case in Liberia dates from the 12 July and it was hoped then that the virus had been eradicated. At the heart of this temporary victory was the coordinated work of all the actors involved (governments, NGOs, communities…), the introduction and the strict respect for protocols and monitoring mechanisms and the identification of cases, as well as the mobilization of everyone. However, since the 19 November 2015 the virus is back: three cases have been confirmed (including one death) and 148 people identified as having been in contact with the sick.
The endemic nature of the virus raises fears for potential relapses in the months and years to come. ‘It’s not the first relapse. ACF teams remain vigilant, because as soon as we let our guard down the virus reappears,’ recalls Juan Gabriel Wells, Director of ACF’s mission in Liberia. ‘Unfortunately, despite efforts from Government authorities to continue surveillance and infection prevention measures, the overall level of vigilance since the last cases has been poor. We cannot relax after every Ebola-free celebration.’ The significant number of people who have been in contact with the sick demonstrates for example that the methods to identify symptoms have not necessarily been followed according to the protocols of the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC). However, it has been proven that these protocols work, but it shows that a more comprehensive and longer response will be necessary to strengthen health systems and provide surge capacity.
Based on the experience and expertise acquired during the last epidemic we know that it is possible to control it if all those involved remain vigilant and bring a rapid and coordinated response, involving all the actors and communities. ‘Surveillance must not be relaxed under any circumstances and protocols must be respected if we want to wipe out this plague in Liberia for good.’
ACF is engaged with the Ministry of Health and is in partnership with the International Rescue Committee in various areas:
- -Monitoring contacts (daily visits with people who have been in contact with one of the three identified cases) and support to coordinate this follow-up and identification of new contacts;
- -Distribution of hygiene kits for the contacts being monitored (in isolation);
- -Evaluation of water and hygiene needs in communities, schools, health centres…(ACF is to build temporary latrines in the Ebola treatment centre);
- -Psychosocial support for identified contacts in communities and schools.