The Director General of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), Tolbert Nyenswah, has disclosed that discovery from research conducted by the institute and the Ministry of Health (MoH) to establish whether bats carry the Ebola virus, has proven positive.
This means that as per the research conducted by the Liberian Government, the Zaire Ebola virus was found only in one type of bat, Nyenswah disclosed, clarifying, however, that “there is no known case of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in people in Liberia at the moment.”
Addressing the Ministry of Information regular press briefing in Monrovia on Thursday, Nyenswah said the NPHIL and the MoH have been sampling bats for the last two years in Liberia and discovered the Zaire Ebola virus in a single bat species.
Nyenswah pointed out that the infected bat was along with others was sampled in late 2016 and tested between June and November 2018.
“To date, all other bats have tested negative, there is no known case of Ebola virus disease in people in Liberia at this time,” Nyenswah emphasized.
He explained that the type of bat that was found carrying the Zaire Ebola virus lives in many countries in Africa, including Liberia, and as such finding the 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 that type of bat lives,” Nyenswah added.
He pointed out that 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 the particular bat may be a natural host for the Ebola virus.
“Ongoing investigation will examine whether more of this type or other types of bats are infected, and how bat spread the virus. This information will be used to develop strategies to reduce the risk of future outbreaks,” Nyenswah stated.
Though there is no Ebola Virus in humans in the country at the moment, Nyenswah affirmed, he however, encouraged people living in Liberia and the region to continue the hand washing practice and avoid eating bats, monkeys and rats.
He wants the public to avoid direct contact with dead bats or their blood, feces and urine as well as refraining from eating fruits that look like they have been bitten by bats.
“Killing or removing bats from a local cave or mine has been shown to increase the risk of infection with a virus similar to Ebola. Bats are important for controlling insects, pests and pollinating trees, ” Nyenswah cautioned.
Meanwhile, the NPHIL boss also confirmed that the entity between January and December 2018 responded to 48 outbreaks of diseases across the country.