The origin of Liberia’s new Ebola Outbreak is becoming a jigsaw puzzle difficult for health authorities to piece together. With twelve health workers quarantined at the Unification Town clinic located directly behind the Roberts International Airport in Margibi County, community members are pointing fingers to a dead dog that was eaten by people in the community.
Health Ministry officials up to Wednesday evening said they are still investigating the source of transmission of the virus, but members of the Needowein Town community from where the sick people are emerging, say the dead 17-year-old boy Abraham Memigar and others, ate a dead dog in the area. The dog is said to have died on June 13, 2014 and Memigar’s death occurred on June 28, 2015.
Super, the dead dog
The dead dog currently in the controversy was called ‘Super’ and owned by Cecelia Gbollie, whose parents died of Ebola last August. Cecelia seems confused as news spread that her dog may have infected the sick people, some of whom have fallen prey to the deadly virus.
“The dog died and I told them to bury the dog. I didn’t know that people ate the dog until Sunday when they said the boy died. The dog died on the 13th of June. It had nine puppies but since there was no breast milk the puppies died,” said Cecelia.
“The dog spent four years with my late parents and when my late parents died in August, I brought the dog here on August 12. The dog was not sick at all, but my husband said when he came from work he didn’t see the dog. At 10 he called me and said he found the dog dead in the children’s room. I told him to bury the dog.”
Consoling a neighbor whose nine year-old son tested positive for Ebola and whose illness is traced to the same dog allegedly by community dwellers, said rumors being spread by people that her dog is the cause of the new Ebola outbreak is dangerous.
“For me I am not a medical personnel, so I don’t know. They will bring their proof maybe they know much, they put the Ebola in the Dog,” she said.
“For me my dog business hurting me then they’re bringing up old story. I’m feeling bad and miserable because I’m like I am the topic of the story.”
Cecelia said she lost eight members of her family including her mother, father, brother sister and cousins to the deadly Ebola Virus last year.
‘They said he tested positive’
At the home of nine year-old Moses Duo, his Grandmother Mary said she is troubled by news that her grandchild has tested positive for Ebola.
She said health workers came on Wednesday to take another blood sample from the boy after he tested negative in the first test, but said after the second test he was taken away to the ELWA-3 Ebola Treatment Unit, previously run by medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres.
“They came for him soon this morning when he was eating. They said my grandson was positive,” she said.
The dead dog story may be a bit off as sources in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or of being able to spread Ebola to people or other animals. But the community has stuck to this story of the dead dog causing the deaths and it is becoming a widely discussed topic on local radio stations.
Systematic testing needed
The United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) in a released issued in Monrovia on Thursday, warned of the need to maintain active surveillance in West Africa as new Ebola cases resurface in Liberia, nearly two months into the country being declared free of the virus.
“The comeback of Ebola in Liberia was not unexpected with the virus still active in the region,” says Peter Graaff, Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER).
“However, it clearly underscores the need for continued and rigorous surveillance in all three affected countries, including the systematic testing of patients with Ebola symptoms and systematic testing of dead bodies to ensure we don’t let any cases slip us by.”
The head of UNMEER commended the swift revival of the Ebola response mechanism led by the Liberian government but noted the need for heightened surveillance in light of low reporting of suspected cases in recent weeks.
“Testing should be systematic when patients’ symptoms meet the criteria for Ebola which include fever, vomiting or diarrhea even if these symptoms are common with the rising number of malarial infections during this rainy season. The real test of how well the system still works will be in the next few weeks,” he said.