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Entering the New Year Ebola Free


Sierra Leone Ebola West Africa

The end of the year 2015 brought with it encouraging news: for over 42 consecutive days, no new cases of the Ebola Virus Disease were reported in Guinea.

The end of the year 2015 brought with it encouraging news: for over 42 consecutive days, no new cases of the Ebola Virus Disease were reported in Guinea. This development marks the end of the original chain of transmission in the West African Ebola outbreak.

Ebola is a viral hemorrhagic fever with average mortality rates ranging from 25 to 90 percent, depending on the specific strain. According to the World Health Organization, by the end of December 2015, this most recent outbreak resulted in 28,638 cases of the disease and 11,315 deaths across 10 countries, including the three hardest-hit: Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

The epidemic began in Guinea in December 2013 and soon spread, at first undetected, through Guinea and into neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The World Health Organization’s announcement of no new cases means that the three countries have successfully broken this deadly chain of transmission and are now recovering from the disease. “This represents a significant milestone for Guinea, West Africa, and the international community,” wrote Deputy Assistant to the U.S. President for Homeland Security Amy Pope in a recent blog post. Nonetheless, she wrote, “West Africa is still at risk of a re-emergence of Ebola and other infectious disease threats.”

Reintroduction of the disease from survivors or animal sources is still possible. And, amidst the chaos of the epidemic, other diseases such as malaria have continued to flourish. The fragile health systems in the affected countries were overwhelmed and need time and investment to recover.

That is why the United States, along with other countries that aided the West African communities hardest hit by the epidemic, continue to work with Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia to develop long-term capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease outbreaks.

And since the economies of all three countries were hammered by the epidemic, we are helping them restore basic health services and assisting economic recovery.

Addressing the unique needs of the most vulnerable members of society is also critical to restoring a positive development trajectory to the region.

“The U.S. government stands ready to help respond to any new cases of Ebola and continues to work with the governments of the affected countries and partners to sustain the gains made by building local capacity,” wrote Ms. Pope. “The United States is committed to standing with Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone now, and into the future.”

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