West Africa is battling the deadliest-ever Ebola outbreak since the virus was first identified in central Africa in 1976. Nearly all the victims have been in the west African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The head of the UN's response to the epidemic, Bruce Aylward, reported that Guinea has notched up a week without a new case of Ebola, a first since March 2014.
Aylward said, "As of today, they have gone seven days without a (new) case of Ebola. That is the longest period since March 2014 that Guinea has gone without an Ebola case. There are two people in the country who have Ebola, but they tested positive before September 2, 2015."
For Aylward, the milestone in Guinea and news that Sierra Leone's capital Freetown had gone 21 days without a new case fed optimism that the outbreak could be finished by the end of 2015. He said, "Our goal is zero transmission in the human population and that remains very possible within 2015. Sierra Leone confirmed three new cases this week in the village of Sellu Kafta, which is under quarantine, but all patients were linked to the country's single remaining transmission chain, which was being closely monitored."
Despite positive signs that an end to the Ebola epidemic is within reach, Aylward again warned against complacency, including by the international community. He said, "The outbreak is not finished by a long shot. Vigilance in the three hardest-hit countries would be essential through to the end of 2016, as the virus is embedded within the area's animal population."