Published: Fri, January 15, 2016
Health | By Jay Jacobs

Ebola outbreak in west Africa over

Ebola outbreak in west Africa over

The World Health Organization (WHO) today declared Liberia free of Ebola, marking the end of the outbreak in West Africa.

The declaration comes two years after the first case was reported in Guinea and cases of re-emergence in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

All three countries remain at risk of additional outbreaks due the virus's ability to remain infectious in survivors even after they have recovered from its symptoms.

Also making points in the statement, Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, said detecting and breaking every chain of transmission had been a monumental achievement, adding that so much was needed and so much was accomplished by national authorities, heroic health workers, civil society, local and worldwide organizations and generous partners.

UNICEF highlighted the importance of providing children living in these three countries, many of whom have been taken in by immediate or extended family, with cash grants, school support, clothing and food. 

"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.

"It is a collective effort of the global community and the people of Liberia for being once more Ebola-free", Tolbert Nyenswah, Liberia's deputy minister of public health, said in a telephone interview.

Staff members of Doctors Without Borders, conduct a decontamination process on Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC Director, who is dressed in his personal protective equipment and is exiting an Ebola treatment unit in Monrovia, Liberia in 2014.

The country joins Sierra Leone and Guinea - the epicenters of the latest outbreak - as Ebola-free. The WHO says it will continue to work with governments on preventing transmission and responding to outbreaks. Liberia is an example of that challenge, having gotten cases to zero twice before, only to have the disease spark again-both instances likely caused by lingering virus in survivors.

The Ebola outbreak highlighted just how little we actually know about the disease and how hard it can be to fully eradicate.

In 2014, the AP obtained an internal World Health Organization document that said "nearly everyone involved in the outbreak response failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall..."

The U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said Wednesday that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa had been "a fundamental test" of the world's ability to come together to stanch the pandemic. All three countries are now in a 90-day period of heightened surveillance.

"We've shown in Liberia that the health care system has the human resource capacity, infection prevention and control capacity, health care workers are vigilant, and response workers are vigilant".

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