Date: Mon 2 Sep 2019
Source: Daily Observer [edited]
<https://www.liberianobserver.com/news/lassa-fever-outbreak-spreads-to-grand-kru/>

Just 5 years after containing the deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD), authorities at the Ministry of Health (MoH) have confirmed an outbreak of Lassa fever across the country.  The situation is so serious that Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Francis Nah Kateh, has warned Liberians to take the necessary preventive measures, "even though this is what we have been taking care of all the while. For the disease to spread to Grand Kru County, gives health authorities the cause for concern."  According to MoH data, a total of 92 suspected cases between 1 Jan-25 Aug 2019, including 21 deaths, have been reported.  "Of these, 25 cases have been confirmed by RT-PCR (Nimba-9, Bong-10, Grand Bassa-5, and Grand Kru -1), while 9 remain suspected cases," the release recorded.  The case fatality rate among confirmed cases is 36% (9 deaths out of 25 confirmed cases). Males are mostly affected by the disease (56%) of confirmed cases as compared to females.

The MoH release also said that although Lassa fever is not new to Liberia, it is a deadly viral disease that requires urgent attention. The disease is spread by rodents or rats and through close contact with infected persons.  "We are concerned about the sporadic increase of Lassa fever cases outside the Lassa Belt in Liberia," meaning Nimba, Bong, and Grand Gedeh counties.  "For Lassa fever to affect Grand Kru other than those counties it has previously affected, gives us the fear to raise the alert," Dr Kateh told the Daily Observer via mobile phone on [Fri 2 Sep 2019].

Henceforth, MoH authorities in collaboration with partners and the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), said they are responding to the Lassa fever outbreak in the country.  According to a release issued in Monrovia on 22 Aug 2019, Bong County Health Team notified NPHIL and MoH of the disease's outbreak following the confirmation of one case from Suakoko District, Bong County.  The case concerned the death of a 30-year-old male and a laboratory technician; a health worker, who previously worked with the Phebe Hospital, and a resident of Phebe Airstrip.  "Our hearts are broken, and we express our heartfelt condolences to members of the bereaved family," MoH said in a release on [Fri 30 Aug 2019].  Similarly, on 24 and 25 Aug 2019, the National Public Health Reference Laboratory confirmed 2 additional cases of Lassa fever infection in a 46-year old male as well as a 14-year old female, both residents of Suakoko Town, Bong County.

So far, the release said a total of 30 contacts, including 18 health workers, have been line-listed and are being followed up to the extent that 2 of the contacts have become symptomatic, though one of them have been tested negative. Additionally, 2 cases (one contact) remain in isolation and are undergoing Ribavirin (Lassa) treatment, "because this is the 10th confirmed case being detected from Bong County since [the beginning of] 2019." In response to the outbreak, MoH, NPHIL, World Health Organization (WHO), United States-based Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC), and partners are providing technical, financial, and logistical support to the District Response Teams.  "No epidemiological link has been established between these cases. However, there is a likelihood for these cases to be linked based on history of the source of infection," the release declared.

Health authorities are therefore advising people to "Keep your environment clean; cover your dishes to prevent rats excreting or urinating on them; cover food in tightly-closed containers to prevent rats from playing in food or drinking water; do not eat rats, because you can get the sickness by coming in contact with their blood, [urine, or feces] do not dry food in open places where rats can reach; avoid body contact with infected persons and endemic zone; and visit a health facility immediately when you feel sick."

Meanwhile, NPHIL, MoH, and partners have appealed to the general public to take necessary preventive measures, and kindly report cases of fever (any kind) to the nearest health facility.  "We continue to improve our rapid response teams at county, district, and community levels through the County Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs), and to provide technical, financial and logistical support to the outbreak," the release said.
Date: Mon 6 May 2019
Source: Front Page Africa [edited]
<https://frontpageafricaonline.com/county-news/liberia-rivercess-children-plagued-by-skin-diseases-locally-called-be-serious/>

The emergence of a rare skin disease known in Liberia as "Be Serious" has sparked fear amongst residents of Charlie Town in Rivercess County. Residents, mainly parents, say children who are under 15 years of are seriously infected. They are afraid that the disease is contagious and is fast spreading rashes on the bodies of school-going-kids.

They are afraid that the situation will become an emergency, due to lack of adequate medication at the only clinic in the area. Joe Gbessigie, a resident of the town, says he's worried that instead of providing medicines, the clinic only gives patients prescriptions to buy drugs from private pharmacies.

Nathaniel Zoklah, the Township Commissioner, says some kids who are affected by the disease are in school, and he is concerned that the situation poses risk to other pupils. "At this time of the school year, keeping children who are affected with the disease may affect their education, so the kids are in schools with their friends but it is risky also," Commissioner Zoklah said. "They are interacting, eating together and this disease has the ability to spread through contact, so more children risk being affected."

The residents have not been able to state the actual cause of the disease, but some are assuming that it is waterborne. Some of the residents in Charlie Town and its surroundings said the hand pumps that are a major source of drinking water are all damaged, forcing residents to fetch water from creeks.  [Byline: Willie N. Tokpah]
===========================
[The disease referred to in this report and its accompanying photograph is most likely to be scabies.  Scabies is a skin infestation by the scabies mite - _Sarcoptes scabiei_. The infection is found worldwide and is transmitted under poor hygienic conditions. The mite is transmitted by physical contact and poor hygiene is a main risk factor. Outbreaks are seen in refugee camps and nursing homes.

An outbreak is handled by ensuring that the affected people and close contacts at risk have a frequent bath and change clothes daily. The traditional treatment is pyrethroid containing ointments which kill the mites, but ivermectin orally is easier to administer and thus more acceptable and ensures better compliance. Especially in an outbreak in a school the best way to stop the outbreak would be administration of ivermectin to all children. - ProMED Mod.EP]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Rivercess County, Liberia: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/42309>]
Date: Tue 23 Oct 2018
Source: The Bush Chicken [edited]
<http://www.bushchicken.com/seven-cases-confirmed-in-grand-gedeh-measles-outbreak/>

The director for immunization at the Ministry of Health says there are currently 29 reported measles cases in Grand Gedeh, with 7 of those cases confirmed.

Director for immunization at the Health Ministry Adolphus T. Clarke said reports of the outbreak in Tchien district 1st emerged on [Wed 17 Oct 2018]. Speaking to The Bush Chicken in an exclusive interview, Clarke said out of the 29 cases reported, health officials in the area realized that 11 children under 5 years of age were affected by the disease. The other children were older than 5.

"The 29 cases identified were managed at the Martha Tubman Memorial Hospital in Zwedru, and the affected children fully recovered with no death reported."

With support from the Ministry of Health, Clarke said the county responded quickly with vaccinations. "The exercise has concluded, and health officials were able to reach a total of 1551 children not less than 5 years," he said. "So I can say that the county responded swiftly to the outbreak of the disease and recorded zero deaths."

However, things did not go smoothly. Due to the poor road conditions in the south-eastern region, Clarke said some health officials who left Monrovia with vaccinations for Grand Gedeh endured difficulties during the journey. "Others had to travel through neighbouring Ivory Coast to reach the country," he said.

The director indicated that, due to the challenge in attaining high vaccination coverage, health authorities in the country knew that, at some point in time, there would be sporadic outbreaks of the disease in the county.

Clarke said the current outbreak was not severe, because the ministry has dealt with sporadic outbreaks of measles in the past. He noted that health officials in Grand Gedeh have now been encouraged to carry out vaccination campaigns in affected and nearby communities as the dry season approaches.

"We have encouraged mothers to make use of the health facilities in the county and ensure that their children are vaccinated against all the diseases the ministry is preventing," Clarke said.  [Byline: Zeze Ballah]
Date: Thu 27 Sep 2018
Source: Front Page Africa [edited]
<https://frontpageafricaonline.com/health/liberia-yellow-fever-suspected-in-grand-kru-county/>

The National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH) and partners is investigating a suspected case of yellow fever in Grand Kru County.

According to a release issued in Monrovia, the suspected case is a 2-year-old female from Farina Town, Barclayville Health District. There has been no death or new cases reported. The suspected case has been managed and is in good health.

A blood specimen has been collected and sent to the National Public Health Reference Laboratory (NPHRL) for confirmation. According to the release, health authorities in the county are conducting an active case search, risk assessment, and planning for a possible reactive vaccination exercise, pending the laboratory result.

Since January 2018, this is the 2nd reported suspected case from Grand Kru County. The 1st was a 29-year-old female from Dorbor District.

There have been no confirmed cases of yellow fever in the country since the 2009 nationwide preventive vaccination campaign. The release also noted that a total of 94 suspected cases of yellow fever have been recorded across the country since the beginning of 2018.

Yellow fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes. The symptoms include fever, headache, jaundice, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Communities have been advised to report unexplained deaths for safe and dignified burials as measures to prevent infection. Community engagement and response activities have been intensified in the area.

Meanwhile, the public is advised to take the following public-health measures:
- Keep your environment clean
- Visit a health facility immediately when you feel the symptoms of yellow fever
- Continue sleeping under treated bed nets

Yellow fever is not transmitted through body touch or body fluids.
=====================
[Yellow fever (YF) cases have occurred sporadically in Liberia, although the last YF ProMED-mail post was in 2009. The 94 suspected YF cases this year (2018), including the most recent one above, is a cause for serious concern. It is important to have a timely laboratory diagnosis and well-developed contingency plans should YF be confirmed. YF can quickly spread if a significant proportion of the human population is unvaccinated and the vector mosquitoes are abundant. The above report does not indicate the number of unvaccinated individuals nor the status of the vector mosquito population. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Grand Kru County, Liberia: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/32407>]
Date: Fri 6 Jul 2018, 5:00 PM
Source: WHO Weekly Bulletin on Outbreaks and Other Emergencies [edited]
<http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/273028/OEW27-300606072018.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y>

Event Description
-----------------
Liberia has continued to experience sporadic cases of Lassa fever since the beginning of 2018. In week 25 (week ending 26 Jun 2018), 2 new confirmed Lassa fever cases were reported in Nimba County, the only county with active transmission currently. Nimba County has reported 5 confirmed Lassa fever cases since [12 May 2018]. In the latest event (the 2 confirmed cases in week 25), the 1st case-patient, a 59-year- old male from Gbehlay Geh district, fell ill on [4 Jun 2018] and was treated with antimalarials and antibiotics at a local clinic. On [20 Jun 2018], the case-patient presented to a public hospital with fever and other constitutional symptoms, and had bleeding from a venepuncture site.

On [21 Jun 2018], a blood specimen was collected and sent to the National Public Health Reference Laboratory (NPHRL). The test result released on [26 Jun 2018] was positive for Lassa fever virus infection. The 2nd case-patient, a 41-year-old female, is the wife of the first case-patient (described above). She developed illness on [17 Jun 2018] and was admitted to the same hospital on [20 June 2018] with fever and other constitutional symptoms. Being a known contact, a blood specimen was collected on [21 Jun 2018] and the test result released on [26 Jun 2018] was positive for Lassa fever. The 2 case-patients are admitted under barrier nursing and ribavirin treatment initiated. A total of 26 contacts, including 13 health workers, have been line listed and are being followed up.

Between [1 Jan 2018] and [27 Jun 2018], a total of 130 suspected Lassa fever cases, including 33 deaths, were reported. Of these, 20 cases were laboratory confirmed, 103 were discarded (after testing negative), and 7 cases were not tested due to inadequate specimens. Of the 20 confirmed cases, 14 have died, giving a case fatality rate of 70 percent. Females make up 60 percent (12) of the confirmed cases. The age range for the confirmed cases is 1 to 65 years old, with a median of 32.5 years. The confirmed cases are from 5 counties, namely (Nimba (9), Bong (4), Montserrado (3), Margibi (2), and Grand Bassa (2).

Public Health Actions
---------------------
- The Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) are coordinating response activities to the Lassa fever outbreak, with support from WHO, CDC and other partners. The national epidemic preparedness and response committee (NEPRC), under the leadership of NPHIL, have been meeting weekly to review the Lassa fever outbreak situation and provide technical support to sub-national level, with technical support from WHO, and US-CDC; 15 WHO field offices are providing technical and operational support to the response.
- Active surveillance, including case search, case investigation and contact tracing are ongoing in the affected districts. A specimen transport system using couriers is available at designated points across the country to transport specimens to the NPHRL for testing.
- The Ganta United Methodist Hospital has been designated as a treatment centre, and equipped with ribavirin and other medical supplies for case management. Orientation of healthcare workers on case management protocol is ongoing.
- Healthcare workers in the country are being trained on Lassa fever case management and infection prevention and control (IPC) measures by NPHIL and MOH, with support from WHO.
- Health workers' exposure risk assessment is planned to be conducted in the clinic or hospital where the confirmed cases sought care.
- Community engagement activities are ongoing in the affected communities, including home visits and providing information on environmental cleanliness.

Situation Interpretation
------------------------
Sporadic Lassa fever cases continue to occur in certain parts of Liberia where the disease is known to be endemic. Bong, Grand Bassa, Margibi, and Nimba are among the counties that report cases annually. In 2017, a total of 30 confirmed cases were reported from 7 counties. The reason for these sporadic cases is known: the constant interaction of rats (the vector for Lassa fever virus) and people in unsanitary conditions. The national authorities and partners need to prioritize measures mitigating this exposure risk factor by improving vector and environmental management components of the response. This goes along with effective social mobilization and community engagement strategies, targeting vector control and environmental management in the communities. There is also a need to enhance capacity at the subnational levels for early case detection, case investigation, appropriate case management and its associated IPC [infection prevention and control] measures aimed at averting infection among health workers.
========================
[The number of Lassa fever cases in Liberia continues to slowly increase. Between 1 Jan 2018 and 27 Jun 2018, 20 cases were laboratory confirmed, up from 18 cases on 1 Jun 2018. Apparently, all these Lassa fever virus infections were acquired by contact with infected rodents or their excretions. Lassa fever virus can be acquired from infected rodents or patients in the hospital but in the above report, there is no mention of Lassa fever virus nosocomial transmission. Transmission can occur in health facilities when personal protective equipment is not employed and barrier-nursing practices are not adequate to protect staff from blood and secretions of infected patients. The hospitals attending the patients mentioned above do have barrier measures in place.

As mentioned in previous posts, Lassa fever virus transmission to humans occur when people are in contact with the reservoir rodent host, the multimammate mouse (_Mastomys natalensis_ and _M. erythroleucus_) and the African wood mouse (_Hylomycus pamfi_) or their excreta, as was likely the situation in these cases. Rodent control has to be undertaken at the village level with individual households employing the preventive measures listed above. This requires an extensive and continuous public education effort.

Images of the _Mastomys natalensis_ mouse, the rodent reservoir of Lassa fever virus, can be seen at
<https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/45326-Mastomys-natalensis> and of
_M. erythroleucus_ and _Hylomycus pamfi_ at:
<http://punchng.com/nigerias-large-rat-population-threatens-lassa-fever-war/>. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Maps of Liberia can be accessed at:
<http://www.theworldmap.net/country/big/liberia/> and
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/54>]
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