More reports on: World Health Organisation

WHO declares Liberia Ebola-free

11 May 2015

Liberia, the country worst affected by the Ebola outbreak last year, has been declared Ebola virus free.

According to The World Health Organization's announcement on Saturday, Liberia had seen no new cases of the disease in the past 42 days.

Ebola killed over 4,700 people in Liberia, which was the worst affected nation as the disease made a dramatic emergence in west Africa last year.

Matters came to a head in August and September, with the outbreak peaking bringing nightmare scenes to the nation and its capital city of Monrovia - overflowing treatment centres  locked gates, dead patients on hospital grounds, and bodies, at times, lying uncollected for days.

At one point, no treatment beds for Ebola patients were available anywhere in the country, WHO revealed on Saturday, with flights into and out of the country cancelled, fuel and food ran low; and schools, businesses, borders, markets and most health facilities closed. Fear and uncertainty stalked the country (See: UK on Ebola alert as airlines stop flights to Liberia, Sierra Leone).

However, a strong community response supported by international aid had combined to combat the disease, WHO said. Health teams scoured the countryside, challenging village chiefs and religious leaders to implement an effective response.

The response appeared to have worked, although WHO also noted that it came at a cost to the nation's health service. In all, 375 medical workers were infected and the outbreak to a toll of 189 personnel.

On Saturday, Liberia's president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, told the BBC: ''We will celebrate our communities which have taken responsibility and participated in fighting this unknown enemy and finally we've crossed the Rubicon. Liberia indeed is a happy nation.''

Meanwhile, CNN's Elizbeth Cohen says she wished she were there to hug the wonderful people she met when she visited at the height of the epidemic in September, when any contact, even shaking hands, was forbidden.

She quoted Dr Thomas Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who visited the country in August as saying, "We went through just a horrific epidemic." It's a searing memory that many of us will carry with us for the rest of our lives."

She writes something else seared in her mind, too: the realisation that smart people failed to stop the epidemic before it got so terribly out of hand. The outbreak started in March, and when she arrived six months later, the response was ''still clumsy''.

''Officials in Monrovia, including ones from the WHO, held an elaborate opening ceremony for an Ebola hospital, but then a few hours later when patients arrived, no one came out to help them, she writes. Weakened by the virus, the patients fell out of ambulances onto the ground.''

 search domain-b