The World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that no new Ebola case has been registered in Liberia since February 19, 2015. "Liberia, long the hardest-hit country in the Ebola epidemic that has killed nearly 10,000 people in west Africa, has now gone well over two weeks without a new reported case," said Bruce Aylward, who heads WHO's Ebola response.
According to the latest figures, 24,282 people in 9 countries have been infected with the virus, and 9,976 of them have died, since the start of epidemic. However, the tide seems to have turned in Liberia, which 6-months ago was reporting more than 300 new cases each week and which still counts the most deaths in the outbreak, at 4,162.
The country reportedly discharged its last confirmed Ebola patient in the last week after having tested negative for the virus for the second time on March 3. This means Liberia started its 42-day, or two incubation-period, countdown towards being considered Ebola free on March 4.
The outlook was less positive in Guinea and Sierra Leone, although Aylward highlighted positive signs there too. "In Sierra Leone, which counts the most cases of the virus at 11,619, only 58 new confirmed cases were registered last week, the lowest number since last June. It's going in the right direction. And in the forest region of Guinea where the outbreak began 15 months ago, no new cases have been reported in the last 10 days. There is evidence now that Ebola can be stopped. This can be done," Aylward said.
In both countries some Ebola patients were still not being isolated and treated, while some unsafe burials of the highly contagious bodies were still going on. This continued resistance within communities in Sierra Leone and Guinea to measures taken to rein in the outbreak is threatening the progress.
Alyward also warned that if international attention, determination and funding to halt the outbreak wanes, there is a huge risk of halting the epidemic. He said, "It should be possible to halt transmission of the virus completely by the middle of the year."