Charity scrambles as Liberia health care system collapses under Ebola

Saturday, November 1, 2014
By Paul Martin

by Lisa De Bode
October 31, 2014

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders has begun distributing antimalarial drugs in Liberia’s capital city of Monrovia, as the country’s already overstretched medical system grapples with a longtime health care crisis made vastly worse by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Ebola has killed more than 5,000 people since June — most of them in Liberia, whose fragile public health care system has collapsed. Medical professionals have been scrambling to care for people needing surgery and other treatment for other health complications like car crash injuries, pregnancy complications and malaria.

Malaria is mosquito-borne and is endemic to the country, but adequate care has become nearly impossible to come by since the latest West African Ebola epidemic emerged earlier this year.

The first symptoms of malaria are similar to those of Ebola and include fever, headache and overwhelming fatigue. If patients have Malaria, early medication can help reduce their symptoms and make them less likely to go to Ebola test centers — where they incur a higher risk of becoming infected with the deadly hemorrhagic fever virus — said in a statement from Doctors Without Borders, also known as MSF, its abbreviation in French.

“The objective is also to eliminate the risk that patients with fever, suspected of having Ebola, will end up in Ebola treatment centers in contact with infected persons,” said Chibuzo Okonta, MSF’s deputy director of emergency programs.

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