We’ve been in Liberia for a week now. With a curfew still in effect, the nights are much quieter than we remember. Life has changed a bit. There is no touching. Instead of hugs or handshakes there may be the occasional elbow bump. There are a lot of new faces as NGO’s and military personnel from across the globe continue to pour in. Another big change is hand hygiene. We’ve washed our hands more in the past couple days than we did in the past year! (That might be a slight exaggeration.) Every place you go into: hotels, pharmacies, supermarkets, car-repair shops, restaurants, even the apartment building we are staying in, has a bucket of 0.05% bleach water to wash your hands in… that is if its mixed correctly (some water smells more “bleachy” than others). In addition to hand washing, some establishments require you to step on bleach-soaked, foam doormats or to have your temperature taken with a no-contact, infrared thermometer prior to entry.
However, things are much calmer than we expected. No bodies in the streets. ETUs (Ebola Treatment Units) are not full. Over the past 2 weeks cases of Ebola have begun to decline. There is a cautious optimism in Monrovia. However, in some of the more rural counties, new “hot-zones” have popped up… most notably in River Cess.
In River Cess County, in a village near the boarder with Grand Bassa County, another eruption of Ebola has occurred. Teams from the County Hospital are responding along with the CDC in an attempt to trace contacts, reduce the spread, and to see just how this latest “Hot Zone” got started. The most recent reports show there have been 8 confirmed cases, with 4 deaths. In addition, there are at least 91 contacts of which 26 have begun to show symptoms. All those confirmed and symptomatic were transported to Monrovia for further care and evaluation.
Our first week in Liberia has been a bit of a whirlwind filled with Ministry of Health Task Force meetings and learning new Infection Prevention and Control strategies. We’ve been able to reconnect with old friends, while at the same time making some new ones.
Now it’s time to head out to Po!