The Ebola epidemic is finally over in the West African country of Guinea. It’s been a long time coming, but on Tuesday the World Health Organization noted that there were no cases of Ebola in Guinea. This is the first time the country has been Ebola free since March of 2014. This announcement means that all three of the West African countries hammered by the often-fatal virus (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone) have now documented that they are Ebola free.
This announcement also marks the end of a successful epidemiological detective story, and highlights the almost miraculous accomplishment of documenting the original chain of infections that doctors think started back in December 2013 with a young boy in the village of Meliandou in Guinea.
Statements from Guinea officials
“This is a very big victory for the nation and the people of Guinea,” commented Fode Tass Sylla, a spokesperson for Guinea’s Ebola task force after the WHO announcement.
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The nation’s minister of health was a little more realistic in his assessment of the news. “We will continue to monitor the situation,” Guinea’s minister of health, Col. Rémy Lamah, a physician, noted in a interview with the New York Times. “I congratulate everybody who participated in the fight against Ebola.”
More on West African Ebola outbreak
The recent West African Ebola epidemic resulted in over 11,000 deaths, with more than 28,000 people contracting the virus in 10 countries, based on the latest estimates. Experts point out that the West African outbreak became so severe because medical authorities did not recognize the extent and danger of the outbreak of the disease at first.
Of interest, the Guinean government has made public plans for a celebration with a number of well-known Guinean musicians on Wednesday in Conakry, the capital city of the small nation. That announcement was not received with universal acclaim, however, as residents argued that the country need to focus on prayer and continue to mourn the dead.
Other Guineans highlighted their hopes that the WHO’s declaration that the the country is free of the disease will result in a pick up of international trade and travel.
Medical authorities have tracked 10 flares ups of the virus across West Africa since March. Viral transmission experts say the new cases are in many cases related to the persistence of the virus in specific areas of survivors’ bodies. They note there is strong evidence that the virus was passed sexual transmission in several cases. In one especially unfortunate case, an infant is believed to have contracted Ebola from the breast milk of an Ebola survivor. Not all “re-emerging” cases of the disease have been fully explained to date. In one case, a father and his two sons were diagnosed many weeks after Ebola transmission had officially ended in Liberia
In one piece of positive news, a three-week old girl whose mother died of the virus, is Guinea’s last survivor. It is very rare for children to survive the virus, but the lucky young lady received two separate experimental treatments: an antibody cocktail named ZMapp as well as a new antiviral compound manufactured by pharma giant Gilead.