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  • Liberia is free of Ebola, WHO declares Posted on 09 May 2015

    Liberia’s neighbours, Guinea and Sierra Leone, continue to fight the outbreak.

    In its statement, WHO said Liberia’s last case was a woman in the greater Monrovia area who developed symptoms on 20 March and died seven days later. The source of her infection remains under investigation but 332 people who may have been exposed to the patient have been identified and closely monitored. None have developed symptoms and all have been released from surveillance. 

    WHO said health officials had continued to search for new cases in Liberia. During April, the country’s five dedicated Ebola laboratories tested around 300 samples every week. All test results were negative.

    By contrast, Guinea and Sierra Leone each reported cases of the disease over the past week. As a result, WHO has recommended that Liberia maintain an additional three months of “heightened surveillance” for Ebola because of the continuing outbreak across its borders and because of the possibility that Ebola could re-emerge via sexual transmission from survivors. 

    The critical issue for Liberia now is the reaction of foreign companies. Many fled the country during the outbreak and left the nation’s economy badly dented. British Airways and several other airlines stopped flying to Liberia, for example, and have still not resumed services.

    Health experts have declared Liberia to be free of the Ebola virus.

    The World Health Organisation announced on Saturday that the country had had no new cases of the disease in the past 42 days.

    Ebola killed more than 4,700 people in Liberia, which was the nation worst affected by the disease’s dramatic emergence in west Africa last year. The outbreak, which reached its peak in August and September, brought nightmare scenes to the nation and its capital city of Monrovia: gates were locked at overflowing treatment centres, patients died on hospital grounds, and bodies were sometimes not collected for days.

    At one point, virtually no treatment beds for Ebola patients were available anywhere in the country, WHO revealed on Saturday. Flights into and out of the country were cancelled; fuel and food ran low; and schools, businesses, borders, markets and most health facilities were closed. Fear and uncertainty dominated the national mood.

    However, a strong community response backed by international aid has combined to combat the disease, according to WHO. Health teams moved from village to village, challenging chiefs and religious leaders to implement an effective response.

    The response appears to have worked, although WHO also noted that it came at some cost to the nation’s health service. A total of 375 medical workers were infected and 189 died of Ebola during the outbreak. 

    On Saturday, Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, told the BBC: “We will celebrate our communities which have taken responsibility and participated in fighting this unknown enemy and finally we’ve crossed the Rubicon. Liberia indeed is a happy nation.”


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