LIBERIA – When Duane Miller and his wife Diana of Gladwin County arrived in Monrovia, Liberia in Africa on Feb. 12, 2020, they had their temperature checked by way of an ear gun thermometer, and were then prompted to wash their hands with anti-bacterial soap.

According to Duane at the time, there had yet to be a confirmed case of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Liberia. The fact that the country had to take many similar steps to combat the Ebola virus back in 2014 may play into the country’s ability to keep the virus at bay.

“They’re being very careful because of the Ebola,” Diana said. “They’ve been through this before.” 

It was reported on the morning of Monday, March 16 that Liberia now has its first confirmed case of Coronavirus.

Diana added that for this year’s trip to Liberia, each connecting flight had an attendant that would walk down the aisle and spray sanitize everything. After arriving in the country and traveling around, Duane and Diana recalled that they were prompted to thoroughly wash their hands before entering the United Methodist Hospital as well as a high school they visited. 

“They’ve learned what they need to do to protect themselves from this sort of thing,” Duane said. 

According to the CDC, the Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a deadly disease with occasional outbreaks that occur primarily on the African continent. The Ebola virus epidemic started around late 2013 in Guinea (a country that borders Liberia) and lasted until 2016. No cure was ever developed for Ebola, instead, the epidemic was contained by way of treatments and transmission prevention. 

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone were all suffering a widespread outbreak during the epidemic. The CDC website states that Liberia had a total of 10,678 confirmed cases of Ebola by the end of the outbreak (2016). Liberia led the other two countries in total deaths from Ebola at a confirmed count of 4,810. This means that 45 percent of the cases of Ebola in Liberia resulted in death.

“When Diana was there [in 2014], she got home and three days later Ebola had broken out in Monrovia,” Duane said.

Diana is a part of the United Methodist Women’s Group, a national faith organization for women. In 2014, the group was organizing an Ubuntu Journey which is a trip that is made by members of the organization regularly. According to Diana, the trips consist of about four or five women that go to a specific area in need. 

The 2014 Ubuntu trip was being made to Liberia. Diana found it coincidental that the trip was being made to a country that has been a big part of her life over the last few years. She recalled meeting with some of the women that she met on her last trip to the country in 2005 and even had some people come from other parts of the country to see her after hearing she was back. 

“When [Ebola] hit, the United Methodist Women over there were fantastic,” Diana said. “They went through the villages with bleach and buckets and all kinds of things.” 

“They were going door-to-door and teaching people to clean their hands and their houses,” Duane said. 

Bats are a large part of the wildlife in Liberia according to Duane. Bats and monkeys used to be a delicacy in Liberia, but have now been labeled as illegal to hunt and eat because both animals are carriers of the Ebola virus. 

In an attempt to restore the population of the animals, Liberia doesn’t allow the killing of most wildlife in the country. 

Duane mentioned that the Children’s Village was constructed in 1998 and originally thought to have served its biggest obligation by taking in the many orphans of the Liberian Civil War. However, in 2014 the orphanage saw many more orphans due in to the Ebola outbreak.

“We thought maybe [the orphanage] would play itself out,” Duane said. “But then Ebola hit and lots more orphans again, so it has been a very useful project.” 

Duane and Diana’s experiences during their multiple missions to Liberia are plenty. In order to properly deliver the detailed events, the article will be told in separate parts. Their story will be continued in the future editions of the Gladwin County Record.

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