3 Oct 2014

Liberia to prosecute Ebola man in US

3:56 pm on 3 October 2014

Liberian authorities say they will prosecute the man diagnosed with the deadly Ebola virus in the United States, accusing him of lying over his contact with an infected relative.

A Liberian health ministry employee visits the West Point district in Monrovia as part of an awareness campaign for Ebola.

A Liberian health ministry employee visits the West Point district in Monrovia as part of an awareness campaign for Ebola. Photo: AFP

When he left the country last month, Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan filled in a questionnaire saying that none of his relatives were sick. But Liberia's assistant health minister said he had taken a sick relative to a clinic in a wheelbarrow.

Mr Duncan is in a serious condition in a Dallas hospital. His is the first case of Ebola to be diagnosed on US soil, where as many as 100 people are being checked for exposure to Ebola.

More than 3330 people have died in the Ebola outbreak in four West African countries.

The prosecution announcement was made at the weekly Ebola update news conference, which is attended by numerous government officials and was dominated by the case of Mr Duncan, the BBC reports.

"We wish him a speedy recovery; we await his arrival in Liberia" to face prosecution, Binyah Kesselly, the chairman of the board of directors of the Liberia Airport Authority, said.

Deputy Information Minister Isaac Jackson confirmed that Mr Duncan would be prosecuted as he "lied under oath about his Ebola status".

Before the briefing, Mr Kesselly told the BBC that Mr Duncan had answered "no" to all the questions on the Ebola form, which includes one about whether the traveller has any relatives sick with Ebola.

Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah explained at the briefing that he was investigating Mr Duncan's movements before he left Liberia on 19 September.

He said Mr Duncan works as a driver in Liberia for Save-Way Cargo, a subsidiary of the international courier service FedEx, and lives in the Paynesville 72nd Community suburb of Monrovia.

Eric Vaye, a neighbour of Mr Duncan's, was also at the briefing to help with contact tracing, and said that nine people had died of Ebola in the district in recent weeks.

Mr Duncan is alleged to have pushed the wheelbarrow when taking a sick relative to a clinic. This is banned and people are obliged to phone a hotline number to ensure that patients are collected by health workers so further contact with sick people is avoided.

Greater vigilance urged in US

A senior US public health official has urged hospital and health workers to heed lessons learnt from the first case of Ebola in the country.

Dr Antony Fauci said the initial symptoms of Eric Duncan should have been picked up earlier. He said the man told a health worker he had been in Liberia and that should have been red flagged.

"But it wasn't. When people do come in from the West African countries that are involved and have symptoms, you must ask them if in fact they were recently in a West African country, because then you could save perhaps days of getting the person into isolation and properly contained."

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