The World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday declared Liberia free of Ebola virus transmission. Forty-two days have passed since the last laboratory-confirmed case was buried on 28 March 2015. The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Liberia is over.
Interruption of transmission is a monumental achievement for a country that reported the highest number of deaths in the largest, longest, and most complex outbreak since Ebola first emerged in 1976. At the peak of transmission, which occurred during August and September 2014, the country was reporting from 300 to 400 new cases every week.
It is a tribute to the government and people of Liberia that determination to defeat Ebola never wavered, courage never faltered. Doctors and nurses continued to treat patients, even when supplies of personal protective equipment and training in its safe use were inadequate. Altogether, 375 health workers were infected and 189 lost their lives.
Local volunteers, who worked in treatment centres, on burial teams, or as ambulance drivers, were driven by a sense of community responsibility and patriotic duty to end Ebola and bring hope back to the country’s people. As the number of cases grew exponentially, international assistance began to pour in. All these efforts helped push the number of cases down to zero.
Liberia’s last case was a woman in the greater Monrovia area who developed symptoms on 20 March and died on 27 March. The source of her infection remains under investigation. The 332 people who may have been exposed to the patient were identified and closely monitored. No one developed symptoms; all have been released from surveillance.
While WHO is confident that Liberia has interrupted transmission, outbreaks persist in neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone, creating a high risk that infected people may cross into Liberia over the region’s exceptionally porous borders.
The government is fully aware of the need to remain on high alert and has the experience, capacity, and support from international partners to do so. WHO will maintain an enhanced staff presence in Liberia until the end of the year as the response transitions from outbreak control, to vigilance for imported cases, to the recovery of essential health services.
As of May 9, their were 26,648 Total Cases (Suspected, Probable, and Confirmed) in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. More than 11,000 of the cases resulted in death.
This has prompted health officials to focus their attention on other, neglected diseases while the Ebola outbreak consumed time, effort and resources.
A week-long campaign to vaccinate more than 600,000 children against polio and measles kicked off Friday in Liberia, led by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, and supported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The massive campaign had been scheduled for last year, but was suspended due to the Ebola outbreak.
“The interruption of Liberia’s vaccination program has created an alarming immunity gap and a larger pool of susceptible children,” said Dr, Walter T. Gwenigale, Minister of Health, republic of Liberia. “This vaccination campaign, which will protect children against diseases that can kill or paralyze them, is a crucial step towards recovery and the restoration of health services,” he added.
The campaign aims to vaccinate more than 683,000 children against polio and 603,000 against measles. The polio vaccines will be given to children aged up to 59 months, and the measles vaccine to children between the ages of six and 59 months. Children aged 12-59 months will also receive deworming medicine.