Sierra Leone Due to be Declared Ebola Free TomorrowNovember 6, 2015 in Ebola, Sierra Leone
The Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone is expected to be officially declared over on Saturday, when the West African nation will have gone 42 days without any new infections. However jubilation over the ending of the outbreak in Sierra Leone, where almost 4,000 deaths have been reported, has been tempered by caution as neighboring Guinea continues to battle the deadly virus.
Speaking at a news conference in Freetown on Wednesday, Palo Conteh, the head of Sierra Leone’s Ebola response, indicated that there were no plans for “an elaborate celebration,” adding that instead, the World Health organization (WHO) will deliver a formal declaration in the capital city on Saturday of the end of the epidemic. He warned however that “we have to be vigilant as it is not the end of Ebola, but the end of the current outbreak. We have fought the disease and we have won.” Since emerging in December 2013, the worst outbreak of Ebola on record has infected a reported 28,500 people, with 11,300 deaths registered, however officials believe that the real toll is significantly higher than the official data. This is largely due to under-reporting of probable cases during the early stages of the outbreak. Saturday’s announcement marks the official end of a battle, which was prematurely thought to have been nearing its end on previous occasions. On 24 August, President Ernest Bai Koroma led a festive ceremony, celebrating the discharge of the country’s last known patient. Optimism however was quickly shattered by the deaths of a 67-year-old woman and, two weeks later, a 16-year-old girl. While the primary cost of the outbreak has been in human life, the crisis has also wiped out development gains in Sierra Leone. The World Bank estimates that the West African country will lose at least US $1.4 billion in economic growth in 2015 as a result, which will lead to an “unprecedented” GDP contraction of 23.5 percent.