Today the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola outbreak over in Liberia. This means that it has been 42 days since the last known Ebola patient in the country had tested negative for the disease twice.
This means that there are currently no new cases in each of the three countries hardest hit by the outbreak – Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. However, this does not necessarily mean an end to the disease in the region. Since cases were first disclosed in March 2014, there have been several flare-ups of the disease. Today’s announcement is not the first time Liberia was declared free of the disease, and it’s possible that future flare-ups could happen.
That is why, even though each of the most affected countries have been declared free of the disease, they are each in a 90-day period of heightened surveillance. The first one of those will end early next month.
President Obama referenced the Ebola epidemic in his State of the Union address this week, but the U.S. involvement was known much, much more for fear and hysteria over less than a handful of cases in the country than any significant impact on the progress of the disease. The ‘czar’ appointed by the President to coordinate the U.S. response left the job nearly a year ago and he focused primarily on the domestic cases.
While the disease may be stopped in West Africa, the damage remains. Three countries have been decimated, with more than 28,000 infected and over 11,000 dead. Then there is the impact on the countries’ health systems and infrastructure. Should there be another outbreak in these countries before they have had time to recover, they may be more affected.