Liberia: Blood Samples Sent Abroad in ‘Mysterious Deaths’ Case

Liberian Health Minister Bernice Dahn

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Monrovia — A strange infectious disease which broke out in five communities in Greenville, Sinoe County, has killed at least nine persons, while eight are undergoing treatment.

The Ministry of Health has ruled out Ebola.

The sudden deaths occurred Tuesday morning, amid speculations that the deaths resulted from food poisoning while others fear it’s another Ebola outbreak.

The Health Ministry in a statement read at the Information Ministry said – “The Sinoe Health Team informed the Ministry of Health about a series of unexplained deaths in five communities in Greenville District.

Initial tests conducted at the Liberia Bio-Medical Research in Charlesville, Margibi County have ruled out Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) as the cause of the deaths.”

Health authorities are yet to identify the disease and its origin, Liberia’s Chief Medical Doctor, Francis Kateh disclosed while reading the statement.

According to Dr. Kateh, at least 17 persons have been infected out of which nine have already died. Eight persons are undergoing treatment at Grant Hospital in Greenville.

Dr. Kateh said the county health team and authorities are coordinating response activities.

He also added that a team from the central level has been dispatched to the county to provide additional support.

The Ministry of Health has, at the same time, called on the public to remain calm, assuring that it has put into place measures and systems and also has the capacity to contain any outbreak of infectious diseases.

According to reports, seven of the deaths were linked to the death of an 11-year-old who died on Sunday, April 23, 2017.

She died after showing symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting and mental confusion.

She was immediately taken to F.J. Grante Hospital where she reportedly died within one hour after she was admitted into the emergency room.

She reportedly attended the funeral ceremony of a religious leader on Saturday, April 23, in Greenville.

The religious leader is said to have died at John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital.

He was diagnosed of high blood pressure.

On Monday, April 24, another patient from Down Town Community who also attended the funeral of the religious leader presented symptoms of head ache, skin itching and body pain. He was admitted the same night at the F.J. Grant Hospital died by 2:00 A.M. Monday morning.

Another lady from Red Hill community who also attended the same funeral presented symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. She died upon arrival at the Grant Hospital.

A local journalist in the county described the situation as “tragic” and said it has instilled fears in many of the inhabitants of the county.

Rep. Jefferson Kanmoh (APD- District #3 Sinoe County) also described the outbreak as “very disturbing and a source for serious concern”.

“There is panic in the county right now for many reasons.”

“Many recall our recent past where Ebola killed a good number of our citizens and with the latest where there are many deaths in succession shows serious reason for panic and concern.

“We want to encourage authorities at the Health Ministry to work fast to give answers to our people, while we appeal to our people to keep calm and await results of the test. ”

“All that we are hearing right now are speculations; so we ask people to maintain their peace,” he said.

Not Another Ebola Scenario?

When Ebola struck Liberia in March 2014, health practitioners in Liberia denied the virus as being the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

Initial cases were thought to be malaria.

Media reports on the outbreak being Ebola was quickly debunked by health authorities in the country, this and widespread mistrust of government led to disbelief in the existence of the disease.

The Ministry of Health says it has the capacity to contain the virus, but like the Ebola, it is yet to establish what kind of disease the outbreak is.

People in the county are now living in fear and have begun taking precautions that were introduced during the Ebola outbreak.

UN Sends Memo to Staff

Meanwhile, the United Nations has warned it staff in the country to be on an alert.

A memo from the UN to its staff fell short of saying what the disease is but goes on to give a history of the strange deaths.

About Sinoe County

Sinoe County is one of Liberia’s 15 counties and it has 17 districts. Greenville is the county’s capital. As of the 2008 Census, it had a population of 104,932, making it one of the least populous counties in Liberia.

The county has the third-largest area of all Liberia’s counties; it has the second least dense population after Gbarpolu County.

Sinoe County was originally a colony in the name Mississippi-in-Africa, under auspices of a chapter of the American Colonization Society as it was created with slaves from Mississippi to Liberia.