On April 23, an 11-year-old boy was admitted to a local hospital in a remote county of Liberia. He was vomiting, had diarrhea and was delirious. The day before, he attended a funeral. One hour after being admitted to he hospital he died.
Other people who had attended this funeral soon became ill. Within a week, there were a total of 28 cases, including 12 deaths–all linked to this funeral. Ebola was immediately suspected. The symptoms presented by the patients, the extremely high death rate, and fact that this spread at a funeral (which is known to be a key point of transmission of ebola) all pointed to a new outbreak of the disease. Needless to say, that would be a profound setback for Liberia, which has been free of any ebola cases since January 2016 after having been devastated by the ebola outbreak two years ago.
Upon receiving news of this cluster of deaths, the WHO activated new post-ebola emergency response measures and moved quickly to track down anyone who might be infected. Health officials tested the patients for both ebola and Lassa fever, a similar disease. Ebola was quickly ruled out–but more people were getting sick and dying.
As of yesterday, the WHO says that a total of 31 cases of this “illness of unknown aetiology” was reported by the government of Liberia to the World Health Organization. This includes 13 deaths.
But now, the WHO says it has a prime suspect: meningitis C. Samples from four of the deceased patients tested positive for this bacterial disease. More samples are being analyzed and if meningitis is confirmed to be this mystery illness, there is already a safe and effective vaccine that can be deployed to halt the spread of meningitis C.
For now it appears that two weeks after this deadly mystery illness created a cluster of patients and victims, most people exposed to this disease have been tracked down and the disease itself provisionally identified
Residents of the port city of Greenville, Sinoe County woke up yesterday to discover that half a dozen of their kinsmen had died under mysterious circumstances.
In his reaction to the news, Derry S. Dokie, the Ministry of Health’s representative in River Cess with oversight responsibility for Sinoe County, said in a text response to the Daily Observer that there were “unexplained causes of the deaths which started at about 5 a.m.”
“Since 5 a.m. today (yesterday morning) six persons have died from suspected fever of unknown cause,” which health personnel in the county are investigating.
The Ministry of Health in Monrovia has been urgently called upon to put into place interventions before the situation gets out of hand.
The Liberian National Police (LNP) spokesperson, Sam Collins, confirmed to the Daily Observer that the LNP is investigating the deaths, and have dispatched homicide and forensic investigators to the county.
Collins spoke on a radio phone-in program yesterday after many versions of the deaths started filtering in to Monrovia from Greenville.
Collins called on the public to remain calm as the LNP is carefully reviewing the situation.
An ELBC correspondent in the county told the station that some of the dead were students and that their bodies are at the Francis Grant Hospital.
He reported that because of the intensity of the crisis, health authorities in the county were in a meeting for most of yesterday.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has confirmed the news and told ELBC that investigation is ongoing to ascertain the circumstances leading to the deaths.
The Ministry of Health’s communication director, Sorbor George, said a rapid response team has already taken specimen of the dead for testing.
He said the tests will be conducted at a laboratory in Marshall, Lower Margibi County.
According to Mr. George, the victims had earlier complained of headaches and abdominal pains, and doctors struggled to resuscitate them “to no avail until they died at various intervals.”
Huomaan uutisen hesarissa keskiyöllä 27.4. 2017. Tappava kuumetauti alkoi 24.4. 2017. 8 jo kuollut ja 6 vakavasti sairasta.