World Health Organization Declares West Africa Ebola Free
The World Health Organization has said the most recent outbreak of Ebola in Liberia is over, bringing the number of cases in West Africa down to zero for the first time since the regional epidemic began in early 2014. The WHO reported all known chains of transmission stopped in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the three most heavily affected countries.
The World Health Organization reported more than 11,300 people have died and more than 28,500 infected since Ebola was first recognized in Guinea in March 2014.
WHO Director of Emergency Risk Management and Humanitarian Response Rick Brennan say it has taken an enormous, collective effort by the affected countries and international community to free West Africa of this disease.
“While this is an important milestone and a very important step forward, we have to say that the job is still not done. That is because there is still ongoing risk of re-emergence of the disease because of persistence of the virus in a proportion of survivors,” said Brennan.
The World Health Organization reports the Ebola virus can persist in the semen of survivors for up to one year and they can transmit the disease to their partners. There have been 10 flare-ups of Ebola in the three West African countries after they were declared free of the virus.
The disease has re-emerged three times in Liberia since it was first declared Ebola-free in May 2015.
Ebola’s surge across West Africa claimed more than 11,000 lives in 2015.
Dr. Brennan warns the WHO anticipates more flare-ups, but says there is little danger of these turning into a full-blown epidemic.
“Firstly, the risk is relatively low, but it is significant. As I said, we have had 10 of these flare-ups. Secondly, the risk is going to reduce over time as the immune systems of survivors clear the virus from the body of the survivors… and, thirdly, that the countries of West Africa have put in mechanisms to manage that risk,” he said.
Brennan says the WHO and its partners are also providing medical and psychosocial care to survivors.