Forty-two days have passed since the last person with Ebola virus disease in Guinea tested negative for the virus for a second time, leading WHO to declare the country free of transmission, according to a press release.
The original chain of transmission started in Gueckedou, Guinea, in December 2013, spreading to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone and seven other countries by land and air travel, WHO officials said in the release.
“This is the first time that all three countries — Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — have stopped the original chains of transmission that were responsible for starting this devastating outbreak 2 years ago,” Matshidiso Moeti, MBBS, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said in the release. “I commend the governments, communities and partners for their determination in confronting this epidemic to get to this milestone. As we work toward building resilient health care systems, we need to stay vigilant to ensure that we rapidly stop any new flares that may come up in 2016.”
In addition to the original chains of transmission, 10 small Ebola flares were reported between March and November, possibly due to the re-emergence of persistent viruses in Ebola virus disease (EVD) survivors, according to WHO. Recent evidence suggests the virus may persist in the semen of some male survivors for 9 to 12 months.
WHO and its partners will enhance surveillance for a 90-day period in Guinea to prevent new flares and ensure any new cases are quickly identified. Health officials also will help ensure people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have access to care and counseling services, and continue to be screened for Ebola virus.
“The coming months will be absolutely critical,” Bruce Aylward, MD, MPH, WHO director-general for the Ebola response, said in the release. “The time-limited persistence of virus in survivors, which may give rise to new Ebola flares in 2016, makes it imperative that partners continue to support these countries. WHO will maintain surveillance and outbreak response teams in the three countries through 2016.”