Baku, January 14, AZERTAC
On the eve of West Africa being declared free of Ebola virus transmission, top United Nations officials today highlighted the "extraordinary" global cooperation mustered to tackle an epidemic that killed over 11,300 people, at the same time calling for vigilance against future flare-ups.
"Governments will need resources to help communities prevent infection, detect potential cases and respond rapidly and effectively," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a regular informal General Assembly meeting on Ebola recover and response, stressing that the international community must make good on the pledges made in 2015 to support the over 10,000 survivors in West Africa.
Sierra Leone declared the end of Ebola transmission on 7 November and Guinea, where the epidemic began two years ago, on 29 December, with both countries now observing a 90-day period of heightened vigilance. Liberia is slated to declare the end of the recent flare-up tomorrow.
Apart from the original chain of transmission, there were 10 new small outbreaks between March and November this year, apparently due to the re-emergence of a persistent virus from survivors. One challenge is that after recovery and clearing the virus from the bloodstream, the virus may persist in the semen of some male survivors for as long as nine to 12 months.
WHO chief Dr. Chan said tremendous strides had been made towards defeating the largest, longest and most complex Ebola outbreak in history. And with Liberia set to be removed tomorrow from the list of countries with ongoing Ebola virus transmission, marking the first time that all three most-affected countries had logged 42 days without a case of the disease – twice the incubation period of the virus – "this is a monumental achievement."
Indeed, she explained, every chain of transmission had to be broken; tens of thousands of contacts had to be monitored. And while vigilance and response capacity must be maintained throughout 2016, WHO expected that "all survivors will have cleared the virus from their bodies by the end of the year."