WHO Declares Sierra Leone Free of Ebola Transmissions but Warns of Future Flare-ups in the RegionMarch 23, 2016 in Ebola, Sierra Leone
On Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that a recent flare-up of Ebola in Sierra Leone is over after no new transmission of the disease were detected in the West African country. The UN health agency however warned that the virus could still resurface at any time.
The WHO has reported that Sierra Leone has had no new cases of the virus for 42 days, twice the length of the virus’s incubation period – the time that elapses between transmission of the disease and the appearance of symptoms. The WHO further indicated that it marked a milestone in the fight against Ebola, which has cost the lives of more than 11,300 people since 2013 in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in what was the world’s worst recorded outbreak of the disease. It warned however that more flare-ups are possible because the virus can persist in the eyes, central nervous system and bodily fluids of some survivors. In a statement, the WHO noted that “strong surveillance and emergency response capacity need to be maintained along with rigorous hygiene practices at home and in health facilities and active community participation.”
Sierra Leone was first declared free of Ebola transmissions in November 2015 before tests revealed one woman had died of the disease in January 2016, the same week that the WHO had declared the West African region free of new transmissions of the virus. The case of Mariatu Jalloh, a female student, displayed how easily Ebola can return if precautions are not taken and patients do not seek quick medical attention. Jalloh had travelled across the country and come into contact with dozens of people after contracting the illness. Family members washed her corpse after she died, considered dangerous since the virus is contagious for days after death. Experts say that while residents and authorities remain on edge across the region, in many areas, procedures to combat Ebola remain lax.
At least three people from the same family have died in recent weeks from diarrhea and vomiting in a remote village in southeastern Guinea, raising further concern about the disease spreading again. According to Fode Tass Sylla, spokesman for the National Coordination of the fight against Ebola in Guinea, “there is in the same family a woman who died on 29 February and husband a week later. Their child died yesterday.” Since 23 March, 5 people have died in the town, and over 800 have been placed under quarantine.