Sierra Leaon's First Week 'Ebola Free' Since Outbreak
According to the World Health Organization, there were no new cases of the Ebola virus reported in Sierra Leone last week.
This news, sudden and seemingly glorious, has been met with both congratulations and consternation–as authorities warn against complacency. OB Sisay, Director of the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC), said: “This does not mean Sierra Leone is suddenly Ebola free.”
Director Sisay drove the point home saying: “As long as we have one Ebola case we still have an epidemic. People should continue to take the public health measures around hand-washing, temperature checks, enhanced screening.”
Nonetheless, the fact that, according to the WHO Regional office for Africa “an epidemiological week has now passed with no new Ebola cases for the first time since the beginning of the outbreak,” is certainly reason to celebrate, and could mean the end of this epidemic. On the other hand, “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” as Thomas Jefferson so wisely said–and that wisdom is not lost on the authorities taking care of this epidemic.
Authorities agree that the epidemic is still in effect. Dr Anders Nordstrom, WHO Representative in Sierra Leone is quoted as saying, “This is very good news but we have to keep doing this intensively-working with communities to identify potentially new cases early and rapidly stop any Ebola virus transmission.”
However, due to the apparent decreased threat, restrictions on night clubs, public gatherings, travel, and trade have been eased. Despite the general willingness to get past this terrifying infection, OB Sisay stated “The jubilations haven’t started yet because we are constantly on the radio saying it’s not over yet, but people are extremely pleased that they are [starting to] see the end of this.”
According to the WHO (as sighted above), “The Ebola response has moved to ‘phase 3’, focusing on tracking each and every chain of Ebola virus transmission and close down the remaining chains as quickly as possible.” This entails finding everyone who has come into contact with an infected person, and monitoring them for 21 days, transporting them to a containment facility if they show signs of infection.
The fact that there have been no new cases is a promising sign, but there are always cracks and human errors that could possibly undo all of the efforts of the doctors and professionals who have, thus far, done an incredible job of containing the outbreak since it started in May of last year.
And while Guinea recorded three new cases last week, this may be the end of the epidemic scale of this outbreak.
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