How Ebola helped Liberia put together for covid

Covid-19 was the second pandemic of the last decade for Liberia, which was devastated by Ebola simply 5 years in the past. A US-trained public well being officer who served in each emergencies explains how some institutional data was carried over, in addition to how the virus entered the nation regardless of appreciable precautions.

The second we heard that there was this new illness in China, we knew there was no likelihood that we wouldn’t get the illness in Liberia. The query was simply: When is it coming? So we needed to put together.


Covid deaths as of August 19, 2020. Supply: WHO Dashboard

In January, Liberia grew to become one of many first nations on the planet to start out screening for covid-19 at airports, based mostly on our expertise from Ebola and our understanding that our well being system wouldn’t be as robust as anticipated. These coming from a extremely contaminated nation at the moment (wherever with over 200 recorded instances) must be quarantined in our Precautionary Remark Middle for 14 days upon arrival within the nation. These have been in motels, and we monitored the vacationers two to 3 occasions a day.


Our preliminary technique was to stop covid from coming into Liberia. We knew that it must come via the airport. So we thought, if we will proactively get anyone who is available in from a high-risk space and rapidly isolate them, and if they arrive down with the virus, we will rapidly get their pattern and get it examined. And if it have been optimistic, you wouldn’t must undergo a serious spherical of contact tracing, since this particular person was being remoted.

I’ve served in public well being each throughout the Liberian Civil Warfare and later throughout Hurricane Katrina within the US. I used to be the county well being officer in Anson County, North Carolina. I realized so much about catastrophe preparedness after I went to assist out in Louisiana. 

Through the Ebola disaster [of 2014-2015] in Liberia, I used to be the deputy incident supervisor, in control of medical response and planning. As soon as covid-19 arrived, we began instantly to place the teachings we’d realized from Ebola into apply, as a result of individuals have been nonetheless conscious of them: primary preventive measures like handwashing and primary social distancing. However when individuals start to comprehend that covid-19 is just not as extreme as Ebola was, doubts started to return in. Then the hoaxes started. 

The most important factor we’re combating is the concept that the coronavirus is just not actual, that the federal government and inter- nationwide organizations are doing this to become profitable for themselves.

The most important factor we’re combating is the concept that the coronavirus is just not actual, that the federal government and worldwide organizations are doing this to become profitable for themselves. One other is the truth that even those that have been examined optimistic, [if they] don’t present any main indicators, generally don’t imagine that they’ve it. So if you’re on the remedy unit and also you talk along with your kin and relations that “Oh, there’s nothing occurring to me,” individuals don’t assume it’s critical. The distinction between covid and Ebola is that with Ebola I might see with my very own eyes, even earlier than the take a look at consequence got here, that an individual had Ebola, as a result of an contaminated particular person is normally not capable of carry their very own physique weight. And after we did energetic case searches, it was very, very simple to rapidly establish those that might have Ebola. For covid, there are people who find themselves principally fully asymptomatic. We’ve begun to teach them that “Look, it’s not simply you being handled. What we’re doing is principally to isolate you out of your kin so that you could’t get them contaminated.”

When covid began, we had just one ventilator within the nation, however now we’ve got three, because of donations. However we’ve got been fortunate to date that we’ve got not made use of our ventilators. What this implies, in fact, is that the instances in our nation to date haven’t been too extreme. However that may change.  

This interview has been condensed and edited for readability.

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