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27/06/2016

West Africa passes Ebola ‘milestone’

Health & Consumers

West Africa passes Ebola ‘milestone’

Red cross workers in Guinea will have to remain vigilant against further outbreaks.

[Global Panorama/Flickr]

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone has subsided, leading the United Nations to call it a “milestone” for West Africa. EurActiv’s partner El País – Planeta Futuro reports.

“WHO joins the government of Sierra Leone in marking the end of the recent flare-up of Ebola virus disease in the country,” the organisation announced in a statement.

The health authority announced that 42 days, two incumbation cycles of the virus, had passed since the last noted case.  However, the body urged caution and warned that the three most affected countries, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, would still have to be fastidious in ensuring that the virus could not return.

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A particular consideration for them to bear in mind is the possibility of reinfection as a result of carriers having unprotected sex. This form of infection had not been documented before this outbreak. It has been recorded that certain bodily fluids, including semen and eye fluid, could incubate the disease for longer than 42 days, in the case of sperm, that figure can be anything up to 90 days.

“WHO continues to stress that Sierra Leone, as well as Liberia and Guinea, are still at risk of Ebola flare-ups, largely due to virus persistence in some survivors. We must remain on high alert and ready to respond,” the statement added.

Sierra Leone was declared free of Ebola on 7 November, Guinea on 29 December and Liberia on 14 January. The virus is responsible for 11,300 deaths in the region.

The three countries have entered what WHO calls ‘phase III’ of epidemic surveillance, where authorities will be vigilant against new outbreaks. Representatives of the governments of the region who met in March expressed confidence in their respective health systems to be able to detect and treat any future outbreaks of the deadly virus.

El País - Planeta Futuro

Background

The Ebola virus is a severe, often fatal, illness in humans, according to WHO. The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission. The average Ebola case fatality rate is around 50%.

The outbreak in West Africa, with the first cases recorded in March 2014, is the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976.

The European Union’s response to the Ebola epidemic included medical supplies, laboratories and epidemiologists. The EU also put in place medical evacuation facilities for all international health workers in the region.

In total, member states contributed €2 billion in humanitarian aid, technical expertise, longer-term development assistance and research into vaccines and treatments.