WHO Declares Guinea Ebola-Free after Two Years
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a "victory" in West Africa on Tuesday: Guinea is officially free of the Ebola virus since the outbreak peaked in March 2014.
"This is a very big victory for the nation and the people of Guinea," Fode Tass Sylla, a spokesman for the country's Ebola task force, said reported by the New York Times.
The declaration was made after waiting out two incubation cycles since the very last person to be infected with the virus was deemed Ebola free. The incubation period for an Ebola infection is 21 days. The last patient, a three-week-old baby girl, had tested negative for Ebola twice back in November.
Guinea will now be entering a period of surveillance and will be carefully monitoring cases so that health officials and experts can identify and treat any signs of the virus immediately before it has the potential to spread to others.
"We will continue to monitor the situation," Guinea's minister of health, Col. Rémy Lamah, a physician, said in a telephone interview to the Times. "I congratulate everybody who participated in the fight against Ebola."
Dr. Bruce Aylward, the special representative of the Director-General for the Ebola Response, WHO, added, reported by ABC News, "The coming months will be absolutely critical. This is the period when countries need to be sure that they are fully prepared to prevent, detect and respond to any news cases."
Since the Ebola outbreak first started in December 2013, there have been more than 11,000 deaths and over 28,000 confirmed cases of the virus. Although the cases were reported in 10 countries, the outbreak mainly affected Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. In Guinea, 2,536 people died from the virus.
"This is the first time that all three countries - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - have stopped the original chains of transmission that were responsible for starting this devastating outbreak two years ago," Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's Regional Director for Africa, said in a statement reported by the Washington Post. "I commend the governments, communities and partners for their determination in confronting this epidemic to get to this milestone."
The government in Guinea is reportedly planning a celebration in the capital, Conakry.