Liberia: Local students become active Ebola case finders

December 2014

Ever since the closure of the university due to the Ebola outbreak, Tony Harrison, sociology student at the University of Liberia, has been trying to help stop the spread of the Ebola virus in his country. He joined the team of active case finders to go from house to house to find out if sick people are being treated.

Active case finder Tony B. Harrison asks community member Victor a number of questions to better understand if there are any sick persons in his house, Liberia
WHO/P. Desloovere

Tony B. Harrison is a sociology student at the University of Liberia. Ever since the closure of his university many months ago due to the Ebola outbreak, Tony has been trying to find opportunities to help stop the spread of the Ebola virus in his country.

With his academic experience, Tony was suggested by his community chairman as an ideal person to join the team of active case finders working in district 8 of the Liberian capital Monrovia, in Montserrado County.

As a member of this community, Tony is perfectly placed to have access to the local people and conduct this exercise.

"It will help to save lives in my community and maybe in my own family. I really would like to return to my normal life and go back to school."

Tony Harrison, student, University of Liberia

Since early November, WHO in collaboration with the Liberian Ministry of Health, has trained 1600 community volunteers, like Tony, from different districts within Montserrado County to work as active case finders. The volunteers were trained on how to effectively ask the questions, how to complete the form, how to then pass on the information to their supervisor and got insight on what happens with the data afterwards.

What is active case finding?

An active case finder goes from house to house in a community, and asks questions related to the total number of people present in the house, the number of sick people, if anyone has been put in quarantine or if anyone has died in the house. The purpose of this exercise is to find out if sick people are being treated at home. If sick people are present in the houses, the families are encouraged to seek health assistance and go to a health facility.

This role is sometimes confused with contact tracing. Contact tracers, however, are responsible for following people who have had contact with an Ebola case every day for 21 days to see if they present any Ebola symptoms.

Active case finding helps save lives

“I want to thank Tony very much for coming around and asking questions about what is going on,” says Victor, one of the community members of district 8 who was interviewed today by Tony. “This is good work. I want him to keep on going because we have to kick Ebola out of Liberia.”

Robbin L. George is another university student working as an active case finder. “This morning, I went into my community, searched house to house and interviewed a few people, ” he says. “It is something I love to do because it will save my community and my ‘mother’ Liberia.”

“What makes this activity important is that it will help us to quickly get rid of Ebola out of the country. It will help to save lives in my community and maybe in my own family. I really would like to return to my normal life and go back to school,” adds Tony.