Ebola Dies Out in Liberia
The West African country of Liberia has labored mightily for more than a year to banish Ebola from its territory.
And on May 9, 2015, nearly 15 months after Ebola crossed into Liberia from Guinea and ultimately killed 4,716 Liberians, according to the US Center for Disease Control, officials were finally able to declare victory.
The critical forty-two day waiting period required by the World Health Organization (WHO) has passed since the last confirmed victim died on March 27, 2015, triggering the offical announcement that Liberia is free of the Ebola virus transmissions, according to the WHO statement from Monrovia.
The WHO dispatch said the 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 of Ebola since 1976.
"At the peak of the transmission, which occurred during August and September 2014, the country was reporting 300 to 400 new cases every week," the statement noted.
While the WHO expressed confidence that transmission has been interrupted in Liberia, the outbreak persists in neighboring Guinea, creating an ongoing risk that infected people might cross into Liberia through the region’s porous borders.
Experts warn that no country will be safe until the entire West Africa region wipes out Ebola. For its part, the Liberian government is aware of the need to remain on high alert, and believes it has the experience, capacity and support from international partners to do so.
Across the country, Liberians have begun reflecting on the consequences of the plague.
James Davies, West Regional Director of American faith-based group Young Life, told The Media Project, "We did it. Liberia is now Ebola-free, and thank God Almighty Liberia is Ebola free. We lost our loved ones and some of our favorite people we have ever known."
Mr. Davies said the fight against Ebola was the toughest he had ever seen, even more dangerous than when the bullets were flying during the 14 years of war in Liberia.
‘’Elections were postponed. Mining and logging were suspended. Farmers abandoned their fields, and schools were shut down," Davies said. "We were isolated by some of our best neighbors, and the spirit of African solidarity was initially not visible."
Davies recalled families weeping as their loved ones were taken for cremation. And as the virus ravaged the city, some Ebola victims were left in the streets.
Lamil Kpargoi, Executive Director of the Liberia Media Center (LMC), told the People Newspaper that this announcement is nothing to celebrate.
He said it is instead time for reflection and for holding Liberia's leaders accountable to ensure this kind of health crisis never happens again.
"This is not the end of the Ebola fight after forty-two days," Kpargio said, reminding Liberians not to abandon healthy habits, like the "lesson on constant hand washing."
The Deputy Health Minister designate Tolbert Nyensuah announced that the government of Liberia will continue its cross-border initiatives, and testing of travelers' temperatures will continue.