West Africa declared Ebola-free

Liberia has been declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization (WHO), effectively putting an end to the world’s worst outbreak of the disease.

The “end of active transmission” was declared, after 42 days without a new case in Liberia.

The country joins Guinea and Sierra Leone, which earned the status last year.

However, the WHO warned that West Africa may see flare-ups of the virus. It has killed more than 11,000 people since December 2013.

Most critical’ months

A country is considered free of human-to-human transmission once two 21-day incubation periods have passed since the last known case tested negative for a second time.

WHO chief Margaret Chan said the end of the outbreak was a “monumental achievement”.

“This date marks the first time since the start of the epidemic two years ago that all three of the hardest-hit countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – have reported zero cases for at least 42 days,” she said in a statement.

However, this declaration will be marked with caution as the end of active transmission of Ebola has been declared twice before in Liberia – only for the infection to re-emerge.

Flare-ups

WHO said it anticipated “more flare-ups”, and the risk of additional small outbreaks in the three West African states remained “high”.

“Evidence shows that the virus disappears relatively quickly from survivors, but can remain in the semen of a small number of male survivors for as long as one year, and in rare instances, be transmitted to intimate partners,” it added.

Dr Chan described the next three months as “the most critical” for the three West African nations, which accounted for almost all of the deaths from the outbreak.

“By the end of this year, we expect that all survivors will have cleared the virus from their bodies,” she was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

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