The President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has urged her countrymen to maintain vigilance across the West Africa state as health workers and government agencies work hard to contain the ebola epidemic.
President Sirleaf met Dr Bruce Aylward from the World Health Organisation (WHO) just as reports reached Monrovia of new ebola cases in Bong, Grand Cape Mount and Rivercess. As the Assistant Director General for Polio and Emergencies, Dr Aylward welcomed the call for keeping awareness and counter-infection activity as high as possible until agencies are able to give the all-clear.
Dr Aylward joined the WHO in 1992 as a Medical Officer with the Expanded Programme on Immunization. Since 1998, Dr Aylward has been responsible for the oversight and coordination of all polio eradication activities across WHO’s Regional Offices and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative partnership. He oversaw and managed the scale-up of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which since 1997 has expanded to operate in every polio-affected country of the world and reduced the number of polio-endemic countries to three. Since 2011, Dr Aylward has led WHO’s work in preparedness, readiness and response to humanitarian emergencies as the lead agency of the Global Health Cluster.
Dr Aylward pointed out that the main difference between dealing with polio and ebola is the propensity for patients and communities to hide cases of ebola. He went onto say that the situation in Liberia is now much better – ordinary people, care workers and agencies now have a greater understanding of the virus and the rates of infection have reduced dramatically. Dr Aylward told the President that now is the time for Liberians to hunt the virus, rather than the other way round.