Breaking: Liberia declares latest Ebola outbreak over

Liberia’s health ministry said Thursday the country was free of Ebola, meaning there are now no known cases of the deadly tropical virus left in west Africa.

Liberia was the country worst hit by the outbreak that began in neighbouring Guinea in December 2013, with more than 4,800 Liberians killed by the virus.

“Liberia is again free of Ebola. We have just ended the incubation period following the last case,” Sorbor George, chief of communication at the ministry, told AFP.

The west African nation has now passed the World Health Organization (WHO) threshold of 42 days — twice the incubation period for the virus — since the last known patient tested negative for the second time.

At its peak in 2014, Ebola sparked anxiety about a possible global pandemic and led some governments to threaten or unilaterally enforce travel bans to and from the worst-affected countries — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Guinea was declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization on June 1 and Sierra Leone on March 17.

Previous declarations announcing the end of Ebola flare-ups in West Africa have been followed however by the emergence of new cases.

Liberia was until now monitoring for new cases after a woman died of Ebola in the capital of Monrovia on March 31 after arriving from Guinea. Two of her three children, aged five and two, subsequently tested positive for the virus.

In all, the virus affected 10 countries, including the United States and Spain, with more than 28,000 cases reported. The Liberian health ministry called on people to remain vigilant in order to avoid another outbreak in the future.

“We have been carrying on a sensitisation campaign. This campaign will continue, and we will still be in readiness to contain any eventual outbreak,” George said.

The risk of infection lasts beyond the 42-day period because the virus can survive in certain bodily fluids of survivors, particularly sperm, where it can linger up to a year, according to experts.

In Paynesville, the Monrovia suburb where the most recent spate of cases were registered, residents were glad to be moving on.

“It is good to hear that Ebola is gone again, but from what we saw recently we remain resilient in our preventive measures. We don’t want our neighbourhood’s name to be attached to the outbreak,” said Bubakar Sanor, 56.

“We are happy that our health workers are now up to the task, containing the virus with bravery and professionalism,” he told AFP.

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