Over 10,000 lives have been lost to the Ebola viral disease
Over 10,000 lives have been lost to the Ebola viral disease

A statement issued by the WHO and copied to the Ghana News Agency said 42 days had passed since the last person confirmed to have the Ebola virus disease tested negative for the second time.

Ebola deaths topped
Ebola deaths topped

It said Guinea now enters a 90-day period of heightened surveillance to ensure that any new cases are identified quickly before they could spread to other people.

“WHO commends the Government of Guinea and its people on the significant achievement of ending its Ebola outbreak. We must render homage to the Government and people of Guinea who, in adversity, have shown extraordinary leadership in fighting the epidemic,” said Dr Mohamed Belhocine, WHO Representative in Guinea.

“WHO and its partners will continue to support Guinea during the next 90 days of heightened surveillance and in its early efforts to restart and strengthen essential health services throughout 2016,” he added.

The end of Ebola transmission in Guinea marks an important milestone in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The original chain of transmission started two years ago in Gueckedou, Guinea in late December 2013 and drove the outbreak, which spread to neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone and, ultimately, by land and air travel to seven other countries.

“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 two years ago,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

“I commend the governments, communities and partners for their determination in confronting this epidemic to get to this milestone. As we work towards 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,” she stated.

The statement said in addition to the original chain of transmission, there have been 10 new small Ebola outbreaks (or ‘flares’) from March to November; adding that this appear to have been due to the re-emergence of a persistent virus from the survivor population.

The statement observed that among the challenges survivors had faced was that after recovering from Ebola virus disease and cleared from their bloodstream, it might persist in the semen of some male survivors for as long as 9-12 months.

WHO and its partners are working with Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to help ensure that survivors have access to medical and psychosocial care, screening for persistent virus, as well as counselling and education to help them reintegrate into family and community life, reduce stigma and minimise the risk of Ebola virus transmission.

“The coming months will be absolutely critical,” said Dr Bruce Aylward, Special Representative of the Director-General for the Ebola Response, WHO.

“This is the period when the countries need to be sure that they are fully prepared to prevent, detect and respond to any new cases.

“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,” he said.

The statement said at the same time, 2016 would see the three most-affected countries implementing a full health sector recovery agenda to restart and strengthen key public health programmes, especially maternal and child health, while continuing to maintain the capacity to detect, prevent and respond to any flare-up of Ebola.

Source: GNA

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