TIME Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Releases Last Known Ebola Patient

Sierra Leone Ebola patient released
Alie Turay—AP Adama Sankoh, 40, center, who contracted Ebola after her son died from the disease late last month stands with health officials the moment after she was discharged from Mateneh Ebola treatment center on the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone on Aug. 24, 2015.

Sierra Leone must go 42 days without another Ebola case in order to be declared free of Ebola virus

(MATENEH, Sierra Leone) — Health authorities in Sierra Leone released the country’s last known Ebola patient from a hospital on Monday, a milestone that allows the nation to begin a 42-day countdown to being declared free of the virus that has killed nearly 4,000 people here.

President Ernest Bai Koroma presented a certificate of discharge to Adama Sankoh, 40, who contracted Ebola after her son died from the disease late last month.

“The Ebola fight is not yet over — go and tell members of your community that,” the president said when presenting the certificate to the woman. “Go back to your community and continue to live life as you used to. ”

Sankoh, whose 23-year-old son contracted Ebola in the capital, Freetown, before traveling to his home village, thanked everyone who provided her care during her illness. She also vowed to be the last person infected in Sierra Leone with the virus.

“Although my child died of Ebola I am very happy that I have survived today,” she said upon leaving the Ebola treatment center in Mateneh village on the outskirts of Makeni, the president’s hometown.

If Sierra Leone is declared free of transmission of the Ebola virus it would leave just one country with the disease — Guinea — after an epidemic that has killed more than 11,200 people since late 2013.

But first Sierra Leone must go 42 days — equal to two incubation periods of 21 days — without another Ebola case in order for the World Health Organization to make such a declaration. It’s a benchmark that Liberia reached in May only to then experience a brief reappearance of cases.

___

Associated Press writer Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this report.

TIME ebola

Sierra Leone Has First Week of No New Ebola Cases

Sierra Leone - Ebola Checkpoint
Zoom Dosso—AFP/Getty Images Sierra Leonean health officials checking for the ebola virus on passengers transiting at the border crossing with Liberia in Jendema on March 28, 2015 .

An entire village was put under quarantine

Sierra Leone has gone one full week without any new Ebola cases, a first since the start of the outbreak over a year ago.

On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the Ebola response has moved into “phase 3,” which means responders are working to ensure that the last known cases of Ebola in the country have not spread.

The WHO traced the final cases to a man who worked in Freetown, the capital, and then returned to his home village of Massessehbeh in a northern region in the country, called Tonkolili. The man died in a hospital while receiving malaria treatment, and a postmortem test confirmed he had Ebola. Responders put the entire village in quarantine for 21 days, bringing in water and food and providing information and support, while checking everyone daily for signs of Ebola.

Two family members of the man who died got Ebola and were treated. On Aug. 14, nearly 600 people in the village came out of quarantine and there was a celebration, the WHO said. The President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, cut the quarantine tape.

Since the outbreak started, about 13,470 people in Sierra Leone have been infected with Ebola, and nearly 4,000 have died from the virus. The latest numbers available indicate that among the most affected countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, over 27,920 cases of Ebola have been reported and over 11,280 people have died from the disease since the start of the outbreak.

TIME ebola

What It’s Like To Fight Ebola When the World Stops Listening

My first deployment into the Ebola outbreak was in September, when I was sent to Liberia. After three months there I was eventually stationed in Guinea, another Ebola-affected region where I am currently serving as an emergency response coordinator.

Over the last year, the Ebola outbreak has infected more than 27,500 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone and killed more than 11,200 of those people. It’s still ongoing. When I first joined the response, the situation was very serious. Cases were increasing exponentially, and Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was putting out calls for help and for more actors to get involved. The calls were largely ignored and unfulfilled until later.

Today in Guinea there are many people and organizations involved, but there is virtually no external interest. Despite the fact that we are still seeing cases of Ebola every week—something that would have been considered a disaster just two years ago—the outbreak has stopped dominating the public conversation and news cycle.

Have we noticed the world has stopped paying attention? Yes, we have. Are we surprised by it? No, we’re not. It’s the news cycle, and we know that. Many of my colleagues have a healthy dose of cynicism that goes along with idealism. We wouldn’t pursue this job if we didn’t, because you don’t last long if you let yourself be disappointed. People lose interest. It happened with Haiti, it happened with Nepal, it happens every single time. In some ways, it reinforces our conviction that this is the right place for us to be.

We still have about twelve to eighteen cases of Ebola per week in Guinea, and a third of the cases we saw last week were not on a contact list—meaning they were surprises. When there are unexpected cases, it’s dreadful from a public health point of view. The current situation is better than it has been, but it’s not as good as it should be. In an absolutely perfect and best-case scenario, we could see an end for Ebola in Guinea by October. But that’s an optimistic estimate.

We are aware everyone is tired. The national authorities are tired— they have been working on this non-stop and they just want the outbreak to end. The people of Guinea are tired of the uncertainty and fear. This is an observant Muslim country, and people are very affected by the fact that they can’t go on pilgrimage to Mecca until the epidemic is over. The public is tired of hearing about Ebola. MSF has been working on this for more than a year. We are tired.

But the outbreak is not over yet. And while the lack of attention is normal, it’s not very helpful. The problems that contributed to the scale of this outbreak still exist in many places. People need to realize that the World Health Organization (WHO) is only as good as its member states. If people want to help, they should insist that their country respects its commitments to donations and spending. They should realize that these problems do not exist in isolation and that to some extent they affect everybody.

We understand that people cannot believe that the Ebola outbreak is not over. Neither can we. But we can’t stop paying attention.

Anna Halford is the Ebola Emergency Coordinator in Guinea for Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

TIME ebola

Ebola Cases Resurface in Liberia After 2 Months of Being Ebola-Free

Liberia Ebola West Africa
Abbas Dulleh—AP Health workers wash their hands after taking a blood specimen from a child to test for the Ebola virus in an area where a 17-year old boy died from the virus on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, on June 30, 2015.

A teenage boy died from the virus and may have infected others

Liberia has reported its second case of Ebola on Tuesday after nearly two months of being Ebola-free.

Liberia had been declared officially Ebola-free on May 9 after it had gone 42 days with no new cases.

On Sunday, the body of a teenage boy was discovered in a rural area outside of the capital Monrovia and was confirmed to have the virus, Reuters reports. The news was not made public until Tuesday. People who came into contact with the boy have been isolated, and at least one of those patients has tested positive.

Though Liberia was declared free from Ebola infections in May, the outbreak has continued in Guinea and Sierra Leone, which share borders. “There is no known source of infection and there’s no information about him traveling to Guinea or [Sierra Leone],” a spokesperson for the ministry of health told Science.

So far, Ebola has infected 27,400 people in all three countries, killing over 11,200.

TIME ebola

A Rapid Ebola Test Can Diagnose the Disease In Just Minutes

521695521
Getty Images

The new test is faster and as effective as the current standard practice, one study finds

A new Ebola diagnostic test that can identify in minutes whether a person has Ebola has proven to be faster and just as sensitive as diagnostics performed in a lab, according to new data published in the journal The Lancet.

Currently, to confirm someone has Ebola, a vial of blood must be sent to a specialized laboratory where it is tested. The new rapid diagnostic test (RDT), called Corgenix ReEBOV Antigen Rapid Test kit, can be done right at the bedside with just a drop of blood. A rapid test puts fewer people at risk of infection, significantly cuts down on waiting time and helps health care workers determine who has the disease so they can be quickly isolated.

In a study of 106 suspected Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, researchers tested the patients with both the new tool and the standard laboratory procedure. They found that both tests detected all of the confirmed cases of Ebola, and the RDT was faster.

“Although the RDT requires refrigeration, this is already available in many health centers in endemic areas, particularly those that store vaccines and other medical products,” said study co-author Dr. Jana Broadhurst from Partners In Health in a statement.

The current Ebola outbreak infected 27,443 people in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, killing 11,207. Though the outbreak appears to be waning, having a better diagnostic tool is still desirable—and having a tool at the ready, should another outbreak arise in the future, could be critical to quicker diagnosis.

TIME ebola

Ebola Returns to Sierra Leone Capital After Weeks of No New Cases

ebola
Getty Images

Cases found in a densely populated slum

Two new cases of the deadly Ebola virus have been recorded in Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown, about three weeks after the most recent new cases were found, underscoring the difficulty of ridding the region of the disease.

“This is worrisome because we had already closed all Ebola quarantine structures in Freetown since we had gone for weeks without a case,” Sidi Yahya Tunis, a spokesman for the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) told Reuters. The cases were found in a densely populated slum called Magazine.

Sierra Leone, one of the three West African nations hit hardest during the outbreak, has so far experienced more than 13,000 cases and more than 3,900 deaths. Guinea is still struggling to hit zero cases; Liberia, which at one point last year led all three in the highest number of cases, was declared Ebola-free in May.

Altogether, the three countries have reported more 27,350 cases and more than 11,170 deaths. Overall infections are on the decline, with fewer than 25 cases in Ebola treatment units last week.

[Reuters]

TIME ebola

There Are Now Fewer Than 25 Cases of Ebola

128587211
Getty Images

Guinea and Sierra Leone have around 10 patients each

There are currently just 23 confirmed cases of Ebola in West Africa, according to the latest numbers on the outbreak.

The World Health Organization confirmed to TIME that there are 10 cases in treatment centers in Guinea as of June 18, and 13 confirmed cases in Sierra Leone as of June 17. Case numbers are low, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t be more cases if infections continue to spread.

The outbreak has so far infected 27,352 people and killed 11,178. The hardest hit countries were Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. There is still currently no drug or vaccine for the fatal disease, though the infections have significantly declined.

Read next: TIME Person of the Year: Ebola Fighters

TIME ebola

Health Worker Tests Positive For Ebola in Italy

128624230
Getty Images

The patient was a healthcare worker volunteering in Sierra Leone

A healthcare worker in Italy has been diagnosed with Ebola, the first time a person has received an Ebola diagnosis in the country. The patient is currently undergoing treatment for the disease.

The worker was volunteering in an Ebola treatment center in Sierra Leone, and on May 7, the volunteer flew from Freetown, Sierra Leone to Rome, stopping in Casablanca, Morocco. The patient had no symptoms at that time. It wasn’t until May 10, when the patient was already in Italy, that they began to experience symptoms of the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the patient isolated themselves in their home before they were transported on the May 11 to the Hospital of Sassari, Sardinia. On May 12th, samples from the patient confirmed that they did indeed have Ebola.

The patient was then transferred from the Hospital of Sassari to he National Institute for Infectious Diseases (INMI) Lazzaro Spallanzani of Rome in a special aircraft.

Since the patient did not start experiencing symptoms until 72 hours after returning to Italy, WHO says it is not necessary to conduct contact tracing of individuals who were on the same plane. Ebola can only be transmitted via the bodily fluids of a symptomatic person.

More than 26,720 cases of Ebola have been reported in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea since the start of the outbreak, and more than 11,000 people have died.

TIME ebola

WHO Has Acknowledged the Failings of Its Ebola Crisis Response

Health workers walk inside a new graveyard for Ebola victims, on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia on March 11, 2015.
Abbas Dulleh—AP Health workers walk inside a new graveyard for Ebola victims, on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia on March 11, 2015.

“Our current systems ... simply have not coped”

Top leaders at the World Health Organization (WHO) have admitted to being “ill prepared” to handle the Ebola outbreak and released a comprehensive list of agency failings as well as suggested reforms they and global policymakers must realize moving forward.

“We can mount a highly effective response to small and medium-sized outbreaks, but when faced with an emergency of this scale, our current systems — national and international — simply have not coped,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, Deputy Director-General Anarfi Asamoa-Baah and the organization’s regional directors in a joint statement dated April 16.

The statement listed eight lessons WHO learned from the crisis, including “communicating more clearly what is needed.”

The statement also articulated nine remedies WHO must undergo to better handle large outbreaks in the future — such as intensifying “our advocacy with national authorities to keep outbreak prevention and management at the top of national and global agendas,” as well as establishing a “Global Health Emergency Workforce” and a contingency fund.

In a separate “situation report” dated April 15, WHO said there were 25,791 suspected Ebola cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone with 10,689 deaths.

TIME ebola

Ebola Cases Top 25,000

The outbreak has infected 25,178 people and killed 10,445

More than 25,000 people have been infected with Ebola in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, according to a new report.

As of Tuesday, the outbreak, which has persisted for more than a year, has infected 25,178 people and killed 10,445, according to new numbers released by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Overall, the region has seen a drop in the number of confirmed cases and the number of patients filling Ebola treatment centers. However, medical groups have warned against complacency and Guinea has seen a recent uptick in infections. The country also just recently launched an Ebola vaccine trial.

MORE: 14 Emotional Dispatches From Key Ebola Fighters

 

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com