In a statement released on Saturday, the World Health Organization has declared that Liberia is free of any more transmissions of the ebola virus. This is a powerful bit of good news for a region that is still greatly affected by Ebola, even after the media coverage has dwindled. It has now been 42 days since the last confirmed case.
“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.”
The number 42 represents two incubation periods of the virus, and since there have been no more confirmed cases, this signifies the end of the virus being transmitted from human to human.
The distinction that the country is now free of virus transmission is an important one — Ebola still exists in Liberia, and it will take a great amount of vigilance and hard work to prevent it from starting to spread again. But while the virus itself hasn’t been eliminated entirely, preventing it from spreading is a massive step.
“Interruption of transmission is a monumental achievement for a country that reported the highest number of deaths in the largest, longest, and most complex outbreak since Ebola first emerged in 1976. At the peak of transmission, which occurred during August and September 2014, the country was reporting from 300 to 400 new cases every week.”
Ebola can also stay in a person’s body for quite some time. In one case, a man spread the virus to a woman while having sex, despite having recovered from the virus five months earlier. In another, a doctor who became infected discovered the virus in his eye months after he had recovered.
The news was met with joy from hospital workers, citizens and government officials.
“The health workers are dancing and clapping and singing ‘no more Ebola,’ ” said WHO representative Dr. Alex Gasasira.
While fears about Ebola in America eventually diminished after only a few cases were reported, the outbreak hit Liberia and other countries hard. According to the New York Times, since the outbreak was declared in March of last year, over 4,700 people died, including nearly 200 health care workers.
Many problems still remain. The neighboring countries of Guinea and Sierra Leone are still suffering from the outbreak, which means there’s a possibility that it could spread back to Liberia. There’s also the fact that there is still no vaccine for Ebola — preventing ebola from spreading is the best way to treat it. With a high chance of death and no cure in sight, Liberia and its neighboring countries will need to proceed with the utmost caution to keep moving in the right direction.
The WHO explained that it plans on remaining in Liberia at least until the end of the year to continue its work, and the White House expressed its intent to help the country rebuild.
[Photo by John Moore/Getty Images]