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WHO declares Sierra Leone 'free of Ebola'

Carl de Souza, AFP | A file picture taken on August 14, 2014 shows Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) medical staff wearing protective clothing treating the body of an Ebola victim at their facility in Kailahun.
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The World Health Organization declared Sierra Leone free from Ebola transmissions on Saturday, as West Africa battles to stamp out the deadly virus which continues to grip neighboring Guinea.


Nearly 4,000 people have died in Sierra Leone of Ebola since the outbreak began in late 2013. The organization said 42 days have passed since the last confirmed Ebola patient was discharged on Sept. 25 after two consecutive negative test results.

Dr. Anders Nordstrom, Sierra Leone representative for the World Health Organization, made the declaration at a ceremony in the capital Saturday.

A country must go 42 days - equal to two incubation periods of 21 days - without an Ebola case in order for WHO to declare it free of Ebola transmission. It's a benchmark that neighboring Liberia reached in May only to then experience a brief reappearance of cases before it was declared free from transmissions again in September.

Sierra Leone had at one point begun the 42 day countdown only to discover a new Ebola case. Guinea, where the epidemic began, now remains the only country struggling to rid itself of the disease. WHO has recorded seven new cases in neighboring Guinea in the past 21 days.

Sierra Leone now enters a 90-day intensive surveillance period. Authorities there caution that vigilance must continue.

"Until the entire West African region records zero cases and Sierra Leone continues with heightened vigilance beyond 42 days, and beyond 90 days, then and only then the region can think of true recovery," said Alfred Palo Conteh, Chief Executive Officer of Sierra Leone's National Ebola Response Centre.

Weak leadership, shoddy supplies and infighting worsened the battle against the current Ebola outbreak that has killed some 11,000 people mainly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and WHO has been criticized for its response.


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