Friday 19 Jul 2024 - 12:00

02:42 am


Ebola faces battle of life, Lebanese in Liberia at luck's mercy


Report by Rima Youssef

Translated by Aline Aoun


NNA - Human beings are undergoing a battle of life and facing difficulties to stay alive with the outbreak and quick evolution of diseases in the third millennium.

"Ebola" virus began to spread since the beginning of this year in developed West African countries and is evolving quickly due to the absence of a vaccine or even a cure.

This virus has been transmitted to humans via the fruit of bats without causing any harm to the plant itself. This matter has prompted the World Health Organization to issue a memorandum not to approach the bats and not to eat them. These bats could not be planted in Lebanon because Lebanon's weather does not suit them.

"Doctors Without Borders" organization sounded the alarm and declared that the world is losing the battle to contain Ebola, calling for a swift move to the countries of West Africa, where the virus is spreading, considering that the world leaders did not succeed in containing this rapidly expanding threat.

"Alo Beirut" program highlighted this epidemic and ways to prevent it, especially in Lebanon, and she'd light on the situation of the Lebanese in Liberia.

Bacterial diseases specialist, Dr. George Khalil, said that "this virus is transmitted quickly from one patient to another and could lead to death by 40 to 70%. Its symptoms begin with fever, bleeding of any organ in the body like the mouth, intestines or abdomen, shortness of breath and diarrhea. Ebola is diagnosed through a health checkup and its results could be shown after 8 to 24 hours."

Ebola's seriousness lies in the fact that until this moment doctors haven't found any drug or vaccine against this virus, while WHO seeks to conduct researches to find the appropriate vaccine.

As for the infection, he said: "It's happening through body secretions such as sweat, blood, and touch."

He added that the problem is that the countries that are affected by this virus (Ebola) do not have sufficient awareness or preventive materials as gloves, aprons and sterile soap. He added that "this virus is not transmitted through migrated birds, but from one person to another."

Regarding the prevention, he said: "First, we should not get close to any Ebola patient and wear needed protective materials."

He stressed that in Lebanon there are many equipped hospitals to prevent transmission of epidemics.

Khalil said that if treatments were found during the coming six or eight months, then the disease could be contained.

The President of Rafic Hariri International Airport, Mohammed Shahabuddin, said that Lebanon's Labor Ministry would suspend work permits for citizens of countries that have witnessed an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, as the World Health Organization (WHO) warned the disease was moving faster than efforts to control it.

"In order to preserve the general safety and in accordance with the measures that need to be taken to prevent an Ebola outbreak, the Labor Ministry will stop receiving [labor] requests or proceed with requests for the citizens of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia," a statement by the ministry said. The statement did not include Nigeria, where cases have also been found.

The ministry said it made the decision in consultation with the Health Ministry, which is taking measures at the airport and border crossings to combat Ebola.

Lebanon has begun taking preventive measures at Rafik Hariri International Airport by examining passengers who might have symptoms of fever.

The Health Ministry, coordinating with WHO, has distributed awareness-raising brochures and flyers to all passengers who pass through the airport.

"Measures carried out by the Health Ministry at the airport are more than enough, and if airlines cooperate in the required manner, then the Lebanese have nothing to fear," he said.

If a passenger displays symptoms of vomiting or high temperature, he would be quarantined at the airport before being handed over to the Health Ministry's team in the facility. The passenger would then be screened using thermal cameras.

The Foreign Ministry, for its part, announced that it had sent instructions to Lebanese missions in the affected West African countries and was prepared to provide all the necessary support to the Lebanese living there.

Ebola is not only an airborne disease but is also spread via bodily fluids, such as blood, mucus and semen, where it can survive for up to three months. Symptoms include rapid fever and flu-like symptoms, which then progress to vomiting, diarrhea and organ failure, followed by internal and external bleeding, Shahabuddin said.

The President of the quarantine center, Dr. Hassan Mallah, praised "the continuous coordination between us and the presidency of the airport and the airlines coming from Africa."

He added that the Minister of Health,  had announced, more than once, the presence of cameras for temperature with health observers and the team of Ministry of Health to monitor passengers coming from the affected countries.

"Sometimes we receive contacts from travelers whose temperature has increased after four or five days of their arrival, we send them to some centers as Beirut government Hospital," Mallah said. He asserted that no Ebola patients have been diagnosed in Lebanon so far.

Mallah called on the people not to panic because everything is under control, "the disease is serious and deadly and a few number of people have survived it," hoping to find a vaccine to eradicate it.

The Charge d'affair at the Lebanese Embassy in Liberia, Consul Bachir Sarkis, confirmed that "Liberia, unfortunately, is the most affected country by Ebola for several reasons: because the authorities are not seriously addressing the issue and the people lack of awareness in spite of all the campaigns."

He added that the World Health Organization had announced that there are 2300 deaths in 4 countries, unfortunately Liberia has a thousand cases or more, that is, it includes half of all deaths.

He said, "we met two weeks ago with the President of the American Center for Epidemiology and the Special Envoy of the United Nations, and we made it clear that the number of casualties is much more than what was announced, and we expect to have in Liberia more than 4000 affected by Ebola."

Sarkis feared that some people would die from rest of the diseases - malaria, typhoid and diarrhea, which increase rapidly as an indirect result of Ebola because there is no health center that receives such patients and they suffer the same symptoms, but the priority is for Ebola.

He pointed out that the World Health Organization and the World Bank and some non-governmental organizations such as the "Doctors Without Borders" and "American Center for Epidemiology", have the support and money is not a problem, but lack of human cadre is the problem.

In Monrovia, 160 beds were equipped, and the capital alone needs 800 beds.

There is an American aid for the establishment of centers with 500 beds in most of the country, but these efforts are not enough if it does not have these centers, doctors and nurses, in addition to the full coordination between everyone.

He said, "doctors who have visited the country and were briefed on the situation warned not to wait for medication despite experiments. This drug, if it is successful, needs more than a year, and this is a major catastrophe not only for Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria, but for the international community because this fear of the disease, if passed from patient to another, can evolve and move in different ways."

Regarding the situation of the Lebanese people, he said, "they are facing two problems: first, the disease catastrophe, and second, the economic situation."

He asserted that the country is paralyzed economicly and needs two years or more to improve the situation.

"We asked families to stay in Lebanon in this period and some of them had refused due to certain reasons," Sarkis stressed, nothing that 1800 Lebanese reside in Liberia.

"We called on the Lebanese government to equip a plane to transport any wounded person, but we haven't received any answer," he added.



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