The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared Nigeria free of Ebola after the country passed the 42 day period without any new cases of the disease. According to Time, a period of 42 days is used because it is double the incubation period of Ebola. In order to officially be declared Ebola-free a country has to “make it 42 days with no new cases (double the incubation period), verify that it actively sought out all possible contacts, and show negative test results for any suspected cases.”
In Nigeria, there were a total of 20 cases of Ebola infections, in which eight of those succumbed to the virus, a death rate of 40 percent. BBC News reports that in the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, the mortality rate from Ebola was 70 percent, with more than 4,500 people dying after contracting Ebola.
Time spoke to Nigeria’s Health Minister and Dr. Faisal Shuaib of the Ebola Emergency Operation Center about the steps Nigeria took to overcome the Ebola outbreak. Included on the list were: preparing early, declaring an emergency right away, training local doctors, managing fear, keeping borders open, remaining open for more patients, and remaining open for more international response.
The fact that Nigeria considers their decision to keep their borders open as having a positive effect on managing the Ebola outbreak is interesting, considering the backlash Obama has received over his decision to not ban flights from West Africa. Dr, Shuaib expressed that keeping borders open helped to quell citizens’ Ebola fear, reiterating what Obama has been telling Americans.
“Closing borders tends to reinforce panic and the notion of helplessness… When you close the legal points of entry, then you potentially drive people to use illegal passages, thus compounding the problem.”
The Doctor also stated that to close borders because of Ebola would be a bad economic call for Nigeria.
Rui Gama Vaz, a WHO representative told Al Jazeera that the Ebola outbreak being defeated in Nigeria is proof that Ebola can be contained. Nigeria’s Health Minister also shared his sentiments, as reported by Time.
“It’s possible to control Ebola. It’s possible to defeat Ebola. We’ve seen it here in Nigeria.”
Rui Gama Vaz, though ecstatic over Nigeria’s Ebola-free status, knows that all will not be over until West Africa, at the heart of the Ebola outbreak, defeats the virus.
“This is a spectacular success story… But we must be clear that we have only won a battle, the war will only end when West Africa is also declared free of Ebola.”