MONROVIA, Liberia – The quest to reach a point of no new Ebola cases appears to be threatened.
There have been fresh outbreaks of the Ebola virus disease in Montserrado County, the epicenter of the virus in Liberia. A week ago, many Liberians were optimistic that the postwar country was advancing towards victory over the deadly virus. Ebola has killed approximately 6,300 persons in the country alone.
Back in November 2014, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf vowed to kick Ebola out of Liberia by Christmas. That goal was later pushed to New Year’s eve when Liberia could not eradicate the disease by the Dec. 25 target.
“We want to have zero cases by Christmas,” said Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. “We like to say that Ebola was running after us two months ago. Today, we are running after Ebola,” she told USA Today in November.
By Jan 15, Liberia had made a significant breakthrough in the Ebola fight. Health officials announced that 12 out of 15 counties had recorded no new cases in the previous seven days, with only Grand Cape Mount, Margibi and Montserrado reporting new cases.
Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah told reporters at the time, “We had been reporting zero new cases across the country until Grand Cape Mount reported two cases yesterday.”
As the number of cases continued to fall, many were hopeful that the country was on the verge of returning to normalcy after a traumatic period. That hope is now in question, as Montserrado County recently recorded five new cases of Ebola.
Announcing the new hotspots on Monday, February 2, Nyenswah declared that Liberia’s effort to completely eradicate the Ebola virus disease had been delayed due to fresh cases identified in three major communities.
“Five new cases have been reported in seven days in those communities. From Jan 12 to Feb 1, 2015. Fifteen confirmed cases have been reported, all from Montserrado and seven cases are now in the ETU,” Nyenswah told reporters at the Information Ministry’s press briefing Monday.
Zubah town, Gbangay town as well as Creb Hole communities in the St. Paul Bridge area are now being tagged as “the St. Paul bridge cluster infection chain,” the minister noted.
Nyenswah said that the situation was further complicated because Ebola contacts were leaving infected areas in Montserrado. They were heading towards unaffected communities in other parts of Liberia, a situation Nyenswah notes is setting the country backward in its Ebola battle.
“They are denying [being infected with Ebola] and leaving Montserrado to go to areas like Lofa, Margibi and Bomi that have been freed of Ebola for a very long time,” he said.
Nyenswah continued, “But we brought them back so that they don’t infect those counties.”
With schools reopening on Feb 16, fears have returned to various communities, as the West African nation struggles to completely eradicate a disease that has now killed a total of 8,200 persons mostly in West Africa.
Featured image courtesy of European Commission