- Although Liberia has been declared Ebola-free by the WHO, Guinea and Sierra Leone have not yet met that standard based on new new cases in the last 42 days.
- A total of 11,005 people have died from Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea since December 2013.
- Last week, fewer than 20 new cases of Ebola were reported in Sierra Leone and Guinea, but experts warn that it could take months to get to zero new cases.
The threshold for declaring a country Ebola-free is 42 days without any new cases, because 42 days represents twice the maximum incubation period of the virus. Liberia attained this status by enlisting the help of U.S. soldiers to build treatment clinics, in addition to a national awareness campaign designed to educate Liberians about Ebola and how to protect themselves. This effort has been painstaking and costly, including the 868 health workers who have been infected—507 of whom ended up dying from Ebola.
The takeaway message from the WHO is that vigilance is still necessary, as are ongoing aggressive measures in Sierra Leone and Guinea. Based on success in Liberia, experts are confident that the virus can be contained, but they will continue to be conservative with respect to declaring West Africa Ebola free. And clinical trials for Ebola vaccines still remain difficult due to the dwindling number of Ebola cases.