GOOGLE MAPSThe three countries hardest hit by the Ebola epidemic have seen no transmissions of the virus for at least 42 days, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced today (January 14). Health officials continue to closely monitor Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, which “remain at high risk of additional small outbreaks,” according to the WHO.
“Detecting and breaking every chain of transmission has been a monumental achievement,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in the statement. “So much was needed, and so much was accomplished by national authorities, heroic health workers, civil society, local and international organizations, and generous partners. But our work is not done, and vigilance is necessary to prevent new outbreaks.”
During a press briefing, Rick Brennan, the WHO’s director of emergency risk management and humanitarian response, acknowledged health officials’ shortcomings in the initial stages of the Ebola outbreak. “I think there’s been general acknowledgment that WHO and the international community were slow at the start,” Brennan told reporters (via The Verge). “There’s no question that this disease got away from us, collectively.”
Shortly after the outbreak began, two years ago, “the WHO failed to contain it or devote adequate resources to stopping it,” Nature noted today (January 14). “Although numerous global panels of experts have called for reform, there has been little movement towards fixing the broken international health systems whose failure led to the problem.”
Update (January 15): Health officials in Sierra Leone have confirmed a case of Ebola in a woman who died. “Officials are now trying to trace any contacts the person who died may have had, in a desperate attempt to cut short a potential new chain of transmission,” NPR’s The Two-Way reported.