Ebola-Infected Bat Discovered in Nimba – Health Ministry Flags Early Warnings

Liberians, scorched by the deadliness of the Zaire-originated Ebola Virus Disease, need no summon and lecture about what it can do and how. In the less than a year, Ebola left over ten nearly thousand Liberians dead and the country’s budding postwar economy bare. The country and its people had wished that that would first and last time the name is mentioned publically. But that seems to be a wishful thinking now because news just broke that the mammal called bat, always suspected to have some affinity to the deadly disease, is hovering over the country with its infected claws and body. As The Analyst reports, Liberia’s health authorities are alerting citizens and people within our borders to beware.

For the first time in Liberia, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has announced discovery of Zaire Ebolavirus in a cave-dwelling insect-eating bat, a Greater Long-fingered Bat in Sanniquellie-Mahn Health District, Nimba County.   The Zaire Ebola virus was found as a result of pro-active research by the Liberian Government to determine the cause of the unprecedented Ebola outbreak in the Liberia and surrounding countries in West Africa between 2014 and 2016.

As a result of the discovery, the Ministry of Health, the National Public Health Institute of Liberia and partners have heightened surveillance in the country.

While the Ministry and its partners repeatedly said there is no case of Ebola reported in Liberia, the Ministry notwithstanding is advising the public to take the following necessary measures that would avert the eventuality of another Ebola outbreak in the country.

Accordingly the MOH and part advises against the hunting of bats. “Killing bats puts people in direct contact with their dead bodies, blood, faeces and urine and thereby increases the risk of exposure to this virus and other diseases,” the Ministry warned.

The Ministry further advised residents to always cover their food and water to prevent contact with bats droppings; and avoid direct contact with bats or to refrain from killing or eating bats.

Besides, the Health Ministry also advised residents to stop eating fruits that look like they have been bitten by bats; to stay away from killing or removing bats from a local cave or mine, which health authorities said has been shown to increase the risk of infection with a virus similar to Ebola.

However, the Ministry also indicates that bats are important for controlling insect pests and pollinating trees. It is better to leave bats alone instead of trying to move or kill them, the Health Ministry’s release added, calling on the public to dial 4455 for more information on the issue.

The source e of the 2014-2016 outbreaks in the West Africa region was not definitive, and for this reason, research has been ongoing by the Ministry of Health and National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) to establish whether bats carry Ebola.

“We have been sampling bats in Liberia for the past two years. The infected bat, along with hundreds of other bats, was sampled in late 2016 and tested between June and November 2018. To date, all other bats have been tested negative. There is NO known case of Ebola outbreak in Liberia,” the MOH said.   

A press release issued by the Health Ministry disclosed that the discovery was a result of collective effort, working in partnership with the MOH, NPHIL, the forestry development Authority (FDA), and the ministry of Agriculture (MOA), with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Sampling and testing, the Ministry of Heath noted, was conducted through the PREDICT project led by Ecohealth Alliance (EHA) and the Society for the conservation of Nature, Liberia (SCNL).

“This finding was the result of a proactive approach by the government of Liberia to identify the source of the Ebola virus, which is believed to be bats. The discovery is significant because it is the first detection of Zaire Ebola virus in a bat in West Africa and provides important evidence that this particular bat may be a natural host for Ebola,” the release outlined.

Ongoing studies, according to the Health Ministry, will examine whether more of this type or other types of bats are infected, and how bats spread the virus. This information will be used to develop strategies to reduce the risk of future outbreaks.

Ongoing investigation will also determine whether or not the discovery is the same strain of the virus as the one that caused the u unprecedented 2014-2016 outbreaks in West Africa. Zaire Ebola virus can be spread from infected bats to people and from person to person causing Ebola virus Decease (EVD), and even causing death, saying that the discovery is the first finding of Zaire ebolavirus in a bat in West Africa.

The type of bat that was found carrying Zaire ebolavirus lives in many countries in West Africa, including Liberia. Therefore, finding Ebola virus in a bat in Liberia is not surprising. It is likely that Ebola virus may also be found in other countries in Africa where this bat lives.

In Liberia, Zaire ebolavirus was found only in a single bat, the release added, emphasizing that there are no known cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in people in Liberia at this time.

The Ministry of Health, the national Public health Institute of Liberia NPHIL and partners has heightened surveillance in the country.

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