May 9, 2015

Liberia Declared Free of Ebola


The World Health Organization, WHO, has today declared Liberia free of Ebola, after the country went 42 days, twice the disease's incubation period, without reporting any new infection. The announcement marks a significant triumph of the country and the international health community over what at one point appeared to be an unstoppable pestilence. In August, 2014 Ebola appeared on the verge of consuming Liberia as it quickly became the worst-hit of the three Ebola-ravaged countries in West Africa. Remarkably, the country just as quickly leapfrogged its neighbours in the Ebola struggle, Guinea and Sierra Leone, and has now reached this milestone even as the other two still continue to record new infections, albeit at a reduced rate.

In remarks following the WHO announcement Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf expressed optimism that her sister republics would soon similarly be declared Ebola-free. However to do this Guinea and Sierra Leome must first get to zero new infections and then must maintain this for 42 days. In the latest WHO situation report (May 6), Guinea recorded 9 new infections during the week as did Sierra Leone. Moreover both countries still appear to have hidden chains of transmission, as Ebola deaths continue to occur in communities and among individuals who are not registered contacts, It would appear that in the most optimistic scenario the two countries are at least two months away from a point at which they could be declared Ebola-free. Indeed other indicators show Liberia at a similar point in its Ebola trajectory some four months back. Despite her President's modesty and the skepticism of some outside observers Liberia has significantly outperformed both Guinea and Sierra Leone in the battle against Ebola.