9 May 2015 The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Liberia free of Ebola virus transmission as forty-two days have passed since the last laboratory-confirmed case was buried on 28 March, 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.
Liberia's last case was a woman in the greater Monrovia area who developed symptoms on 20 March and died on 27 March, WHO confirmed in a statement today.
Since then health officials have maintained a high level of vigilance for new cases. During April, the country's five dedicated Ebola laboratories tested around 300 samples every week. All test results were negative.
While the UN health agency is confident that Liberia has interrupted transmission, it is also vigilant of persisting outbreaks in neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone, which have created 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,” the WHO statement said.
The agency said it 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.
At the peak of transmission, which occurred during August and September 2014, Liberia was reporting from 300 to 400 new cases every week. Though the capital city was hardest hit, every one of Liberia's 15 counties eventually reported cases. At one point, virtually no treatment beds for Ebola patients were available in the country.
“It is a tribute to the government and people of Liberia that determination to defeat Ebola never wavered, courage never faltered,” WHO said in its statement.
Doctors and nurses continued to treat patients, even when supplies of personal protective equipment and training in its safe use were inadequate, it continued, adding that local volunteers, who worked in treatment centres, on burial teams, or as ambulance drivers, were driven by a sense of duty to end Ebola and “bring hope back to the country's people.”
Altogether, 10,564 people were infected by the Ebola virus in Liberia and 4,716 people lost their lives.
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