Liberia will close schools and consider quarantining some communities, it said on Wednesday, rolling out the toughest measures yet imposed by a West African government to halt the worst outbreak on record of the deadly Ebola virus.
“This is a major public health emergency. It’s fierce, deadly and many of our countrymen are dying and we need to act to stop the spread,” Lewis Brown, Liberia’s information minister said. “We need the support of the international community now more than ever. We desperately need all the help we can get.”
Security forces in Liberia were ordered to enforce the action plan, which includes placing all non-essential government workers on 30-day compulsory leave.
Highly infectious Ebola has been blamed for 672 deaths in the West Africa nations of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization. Liberia accounted for just under one-fifth of those deaths. The first cases of this outbreak were confirmed in Guinea’s remote southeast early this year. It then spread to the capital, Conakry, and into neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The fatality rate of the current outbreak is around 60 percent although the disease can kill up to 90 percent of those who catch it. The illness, called viral hemorrhagic fever, has symptoms that include external bleeding, massive internal bleeding, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The US Peace Corps said on Wednesday it was temporarily withdrawing 340 volunteers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and that two of its volunteers had been isolated and were under observation after coming in contact with a person who later died of the Ebola virus.
The Peace Corp has 102 volunteers in Guinea, 108 in Liberia and 130 in Sierra Leone working in education, health and agriculture.