The last Ebola patient in all of Liberia was discharged from a treatment center on Thursday, March 5th. And with that, the country was without a single confirmed case of the dreaded disease.
This is amazing. A few months ago, Ebola threatened to overwhelm the nation. Now, even though Ebola still exists in neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea, Liberia is counting the days until it can be considered Ebola-free. That officially comes on April 4th. Already, the celebrations have begun.
But Liberia has been here before, standing on the cusp of declaring Ebola gone, only to discover that the worst of the outbreak was yet to come.
Last May, Liberia and the rest of West Africa believed it was in a good position to defeat the disease. But Ebola returned and this time, the outbreak turned into the world’s worst Ebola epidemic. (The Washington Post: Read More)
In 2014, the disease on everyone’s mind was Ebola. The Ebola virus has infected 24,000 people across nine countries to date, with more than 9,600 deaths as of March 1st, 2015. However, despite the high number of infections, the spread of Ebola remains technically an outbreak, not a pandemic, because it hasn’t spread globally.
“It will only be over when the last person with Ebola is either dead or recovered without infecting other people,”
stated Peter Piot, who co-discovered the virus in the 1970s, at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos last month. But he warned that risks from such outbreaks were far from over, saying: “There will be other Ebola outbreaks and there will be other epidemics, not least influenza.”
U.N. Special Envoy on Ebola David Nabarro said the fight has reached a “second phase, getting to zero, and it really is the hardest part.”
“We are reaching the most difficult phase, where there is a fatigue among the governments among the population, certainly among the donors, and we are not yet there,”
said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, head of the U.N. agency charged with handling the emergency response. He warned against growing complacent because there is still plenty that needs to be done.
Ebola virus is the causative agent of Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF), a disease affecting humans and primates. The incubation period for EHF is 2-21 days and typical early symptoms include fever, chills, malaise, and myalgia, followed by the onset of symptoms indicative of multi-organ stress and subsequent failure. The disease is also characterized by high death rates (as high as 90%) and worse yet, is highly contagious, spreading through direct contact with infected body fluids or skin/mucus membrane contact. This perfect storm of conditions make the possibility of a large-scale epidemic a very real concern.