After Ebola Liberians are worried about coronavirus

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By BBC Africa

There was panic in Liberia's capital Monrovia when news of the first case of coronavirus spread on social media.

This is in a country that has already dealt with the outbreak of the deadly Ebola.

Liberia, along with its neighbours Sierra Leone and Guinea, was devastated by two Ebola outbreaks between 2014 and 2015. The outbreaks killed around 11,000 people, around 4,000 of them in Liberia alone.

Callers to the phone-in show on Truth FM, a private Monrovia broadcaster, were angry that the authorities had allowed a government official, Nathaniel Blama, to travel to Switzerland after the World Health Organization had declared the outbreak a pandemic. He then went on to test positive for the virus.

The countries most severely affected by the two recent Ebola outbreaks have weak health systems and are short of qualified doctors and nurses.

Liberia's National Public Health Institute says that this time measures are in place to combat coronavirus, but again there are funding difficulties.

And people are worried the country won't be prepared to treat the sick if coronavirus spreads in Liberia.

The chief medical officer, Dr Francis Kateh, told the BBC the whole country has just a “few” ventilators without saying how many.

“We are checking on the functional ones; we are working on the total,” he said.

This is important in the case of coronavirus because one of the symptoms some patients are showing is difficulty breathing and treatment relies on keeping the patient's body going, including breathing support from medical ventilators, until their immune system can fight off the virus.


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