Liberia was declared ebola free in September, and earlier this week I posted about the recovery of the last ebola case in Guinea. However, a new case of ebola has been reported in Liberia, stressing the difficulty of ending the most deadly ebola outbreak in history. Above is an image from WHO from earlier in the week, showing the difference a year can make, although the graphic does not capture this new ebola case in Liberia.
A new case of Ebola emerged in Liberia on Friday in a setback for the country declared free of the disease on Sept. 3 and for the region, which is struggling to end an epidemic that has killed around 11,300 people.
The patient is a 10-year-old boy who lived with his parents and three siblings in Paynesville, a suburb east of the capital Monrovia, said Minister of Health Minister Bernice Dahn.
All six family members, as well as other high risk contacts, were in care at an Ebola Treatment Unit in Paynesville, Dahn said.
The deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa may finally be over. While the Ebola outbreak was only in US news for a brief period, it has continued to ravage affected countries until recently. Sierra Leone and Liberia have been declared ebola free, and with the last known ebola patient in recovery, Guinea may soon also be on that list.
A 3-week-old girl in Guinea believed to be last victim of Ebola has recovered, potentially signaling the end of an unprecedented two-year epidemic in West Africa that claimed more than 11,000 lives.
By global health standards, 42 days must pass without another case of Ebola for Guinea to be declared free of the disease. The incubation period for Ebola is 21 days and out of an abundance of caution, twice that period of time must pass before the WHO declares the disease is defeated in Guinea.
Great news, the World Health Organization has officially declared that the Ebola outbreak in LIberia is over! From the WHO:
Today, 9 May 2015, WHO declares Liberia free of Ebola virus transmission. Forty-two days have passed since the last laboratory-confirmed case was buried on 28 March 2015. The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Liberia is over.
This is a huge improvement and major achievement for the nation. However, the threat of Ebola still persists as some neighboring countries still have cases being reported:
While WHO is confident that Liberia has interrupted transmission, outbreaks persist in neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone, creating a high risk that infected people may cross into Liberia over the region’s exceptionally porous borders.
The government is fully aware of the need to remain on high alert and has the experience, capacity, and support from international partners to do so. WHO will maintain an enhanced staff presence in Liberia until the end of the year as the response transitions from outbreak control, to vigilance for imported cases, to the recovery of essential health services.
For the full statement and a summary of the tragedy, Continue reading
Check out this video of Dr. Craig Spencer describing his time treating Ebola in Guinea and then contracting the disease himself in NYC. More info here.
He writes about his illness as a missed opportunity for the news media to educate the public about the disease. “After my diagnosis, the media and politicians could have educated the public about Ebola. Instead, they spent hours retracing my steps through New York and debating whether Ebola can be transmitted through a bowling ball.”
Despite the recent good news out of West Africa showing weeks of decreases in Ebola case incidences, last week showed increases in ebola cases in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone (graph above modified from WHO situation report showing cases from Guinea, recent case count tallies below from CDC). More info and graphs from the other affected countries can be found at CDC, WHO. A news article from Reuters here.
The recent increases in ebola cases are a reminder that the outbreak is still ongoing, and that trials for ebola treatments and vaccines are still as important as ever!
This terrific popsci.com article highlights the role that international intervention played in slowing and reversing the West African Ebola outbreak. First off, lets not downplay the horribleness of the outbreak:
The havoc that Ebola is wreaking in West Africa cannot be understated. With a total of 21,200 people infected since March 2014, the disease is shredding the social fabric of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, leaving 8,400 dead. People live in fear, afraid to shake others’ hands. Survivors are shunned, and those suspected of carrying the disease are being physically assaulted in some regions.
Scientific models showed late last summer that the Ebola outbreak could result in over a million cases without a strong international effort to curb it. Many governments and aid organizations did step up, and were likely responsible for proving the scientific models wrong… Colin Brown (who studies infectious diseases at King’s College London) puts it perfectly:
The models showed what could happen if there was a lack of international effort. We really don’t know what would have happened if the world hadn’t stepped up.
While the outbreak seems to be subsiding, the article also highlights the need for people and governments to not be complacent… not surprisingly.