On January 14th, in WHO: Current Ebola Outbreak Over In Liberia - West Africa At Zero, all three primary countries appeared to be free of active Ebola transmission. Celebrations were short lived, however, as within 24 hours we saw WHO Confirm Ebola Death In Sierra Leone.
Two weeks ago Sierra Leone passed the 42-day milestone without a new case, and once again Ebola transmission was once again declared halted in West Africa, only to have a new cluster emerge hours later in Guinea.
The virus is still present in the wild, and bush meat is still a staple for many people. Some percentage of those who have recovered may still be shedding the virus. So we've known getting to zero - and staying there - was going to be an ongoing challenge.
Today we have the disappointing news that 10 weeks after Ebola transmission was declared halted in Liberia, a fresh case has now been detected. The difficult work of contact tracing and eradication must now begin in a second country.
This statement from the World Health Organization:
Lab results confirm a new case of Ebola virus disease in Liberia — a 30-year-old woman who died yesterday afternoon while being transferred to a hospital in the capital Monrovia.
Liberia’s Ministry of Health, WHO and partner agencies immediately sent a team to the community outside Monrovia where the woman lived and the clinic where she was being treated to begin case investigation and identification of individuals who may have been in contact with her.
Liberian health authorities convened an emergency meeting early this morning with key partners to coordinate and plan a rapid response.
This latest case marks Liberia’s third flare-up of Ebola virus disease since its original outbreak was declared over on 9 May 2015. The last flare-up in the country began in November 2015 and ended 14 January 2016. Neighbouring Guinea is also responding to a new cluster of Ebola cases in its southern prefecture of Nzérékoré.
Earlier this week, at the recommendation of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee, WHO declared that the Ebola epidemic in West Africa no longer represents a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. WHO said Guinea, Liberia and Sierra now have the detection and response capacities in place to effectively manage ongoing flare-ups of Ebola, pointing to the swift response and rapid containment of recent small outbreaks.
But WHO reiterated that additional flare-ups of the disease are expected in the months to come, largely due to virus persistence in some survivors, and that the three countries must remain on high alert and ready to respond. WHO has maintained close to 1,000 experienced staff in the region who are ready to contribute to emergency response operations if needed, while working to recover and strengthen health systems in the three countries.