By Morrison O.G Sayon
One of Liberia’s most high-profile doctors has died of Ebola, a government official said Sunday, highlighting the risks facing health workers trying to combat the deadly disease. Dr. Samuel Brisbane is the first Liberian doctor to die in the outbreak, the World Health Organization says has killed 129 people in the West African nation. A Ugandan doctor working in the country died earlier this month.
The WHO says the outbreak, the largest ever recorded, has also killed 319 people in Guinea and 224 in Sierra Leone.
Brisbane, who once served as a medical adviser to former Liberian President, Charles Taylor, was working as a consultant with the internal medicine unit at the country’s largest hospital, the John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Center in Monrovia.
“After falling ill with Ebola, he was taken to a treatment center on the outskirts of the capital, where he died, “Mr. Tolbert Nyenswah, an assistant health minister said.
Information also reaching The INQUIRER has revealed that Mr. Patrick Sawyer, a WASH consultant at the Ministry of Finance, who had been quarantined since falling ill after arriving in the Nigerian State of Lagos for a conference last Sunday has died.
According to our information, the news of Sawyer’s death was relayed to Liberia by the Nigerian Embassy, early Friday morning. Nigerian government health authorities announced Thursday that Sawyer, 40 was being tested for the deadly Ebola virus in Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos, a megacity of 21 million people.
Sawyer’s death is the first recorded case of one of the world’s deadliest diseases in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economic and most populous nation, with 170 million people and some of Africa’s least adequate health infrastructure.
Ebola has killed 632 people across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since the outbreak began in February, straining string of weak health systems despite international help.
The virus which starts off with flu-like symptoms and often ends with horrific hemorrhaging has infected about 1,048 people and killed an estimated 632 since this winter, according to the numbers on July 17 from the World Health Organization.
Ebola is both rare and very deadly. Since the first outbreak in 1976, Ebola viruses have infected thousands of people and killed about one-third of them. Symptoms can come on very quickly and kill fast.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the Ebola outbreak in the country, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has declared the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the country a national emergency.
President Sirleaf has accordingly called on all Liberians to come together to fight the disease regardless of political, social, economic and religious persuasions.
The Liberian leader said she was declaring the Ebola outbreak a national emergency because of its deadly effects, adding, “We must show a deep sense of nationalism”.
President Sirleaf made the declaration on Saturday in her message at programs marking the observance of Liberia’s 167th Independence Anniversary held at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion in Monrovia.
The Liberian leader has accordingly constituted a National Task Force, headed by her to combat the Ebola outbreak.
The President said the National Task Force will be co-chaired by the Internal Affairs Minister, Morris Dukuly, in his capacity as head of the National Disaster Relief Commission, which, according to her, will be reactivated after months of inactivity.
In her capacity as head of the Task Force, President Sirleaf called on women organizations, the Inter-religious Council, market and Labor organizations, political party leaders, traditional leaders and the media advocacy group Press Union of Liberia (PUL) to designate representatives to serve on the taskforce.
She said the role of the National Task Force is to work with the country’s health team to provide support and guidance to them.
According to President Sirleaf, the Task Force will also establish community outreach force that will mobilize individuals from the communities to reach out to residents and sensitize them on the disease by providing them information as to how they can protect themselves.
The Liberian leader urged Liberians to go across borders and join their brothers and sisters of neighboring countries affected by the virus; pointing out “the hallmark and success of any nation is not in the social and economic infrastructures polices and laws, but it is the love we have for our country and others.”
In a related development, report says nurses at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center are refusing to continue work as death toll continues to climb from the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia.
Information reaching this paper says the Emergency section at JFK is being shutdown and a small team of health care workers and patients are being moved to another floor in the hospital.
Sources said the ER will remain closed until it is sprayed thoroughly and quarantined for 21 incubation period. Nurses and doctors are being advised by family, friends and loved ones to stay away from the hospital until the Ebola subsides.
Leading doctors at both JFK and Phebe Hospital are currently quarantined at the ELWA Hospital in Paynesville where health practitioners from the Samaritan Purse have been working around the clock to treat serious cases.
Dr. Nelson Korkor, the lead doctor at Phebe was brought down to Monrovia three days ago and is being quarantined along with the late Dr, Samuel Brisbane, a former Chief Medical Doctor at the Firestone Rubber Plantation Hospital and a Physician assistant who died from the virus on Saturday. The doctor from Phebe is said to be in critical condition. Report also said the PA’s condition is deteriorating, a senior hospital administrator told said.