By Fatoumata Njie |
Washington, DC 4th May 2020 – Infectious disease scientist, Dr. Dougbeh Chris Nyan has said that, “Liberia’s extremely high case fatality rate of 10-11% is unrealistic and questionable since these numbers come from COVID-19 testing of dead bodies that may not have haboured the virus several hours or days after a person was pronounce dead.”
The Liberian scientist raised the concerns on 29th April 2020 as he analyzed Liberia’s COVID-19 Pandemic data on Monrovia’s OK FM 99.5 “The Conversation” with Julius Jeh. Liberia seems to have the highest case fatality rate in the West African sub region.
Since the detection of COVID-19 in the index case in Liberia in March, the Liberian COVID-19 Case Management System has reportedly been carrying out community testing of dead bodies of people not previously under its observation, but coming out with “positive” laboratory test results for “COVID-19.”
Dr. Nyan made reference to the case of 72 years old John Teah, a hypertensive patient who died at the ELWA Hospital in Paynesville, Monrovia in early April and a 42-year-old man who suddenly died on April 3, 2020 upon arrival at the Jackson F. Doe Memorial Hospital in Tappita, Lower Nimba County. The test results of the 42-year old deceased man was first declared negative, then later declared “positive.” Relatives of both deceased persons disputed the COVID-19 test results by public health authorities.
“You [health authorities] cannot just say somebody died from COVID-19 simply by taking a swab from the mouth [of the dead body] whereby these people had underlying conditions that probably led to their deaths.”
Dr. Nyan, an infectious disease scientist, explained in simple terms that COVID-19 is an “RNA” virus. Unlike DNA, the RNA is fragile and degrades very quickly after the virus dies on surfaces and in dead people who might have been infected with the virus. COVID-19 does not survive in a non-living system or non-supportive medium.
He raised a number of questions as to “when did they [deceased persons] die, when were the samples [specimens] taken, how long were that samples transported, how long were the samples processed in order to detect the ‘positive’ result?”
Dr. Nyan then recommended that a “panel of scientists and public health personnel should review those testing data” of the all dead persons tested, and emphasizing that, “if these questions are not properly answered and not scientifically documented, those results must be questionable and must be thrown out.”
Representative Edwin Snowe of Bomi County who called in to the Julius Jeh Show, said he was “concerned that Liberia is showing the highest death rate … all other countries in West Africa are showing under 2% of death rate, but Liberia is accounting for about 10% death rate and that has been bothering me.”
Representative Snowe further stated that, “fortunately he [Dr. Nyan] answered my question today and we need to go back to the drawing board… I want to thank the doctor [Nyan] for a very, very brilliant presentation; the doctor has done us a good service.”
On her Facebook post on 30th April 2020, Akovi Faith wrote with similar concern that, “Liberia has the second highest case fatality rate in Africa, 12.5%, second to Algeria’s 12.6%. Liberia is testing community deaths while other countries in the region may not… so that could explain the ratio.”
Dr. Nyan then recommended that, “public health officials should stop testing dead bodies,” and further proposed that, “the protocol being used should be revised so as to address this particular issue [of testing dead bodies for COVID-19 infection].”
Testing remains a challenge and testing kits for COVID-19 are in short supply in Liberia.
The country has only one testing facility at the National Public Health Institute of Liberia. From January through March 2020, Dr. Nyan and his Diagnostic Team offered to develop Liberia’s COVID-19 testing kits for free, but the government did not respond. He is the invented of the US patented Rapid Multiplex Detection Test (called the Nyan-Test) for many infections including the Coronaviruses (COVID-19).