Liberia claims ‘monumental’ win over Ebola

Street celebrations broke out in Monrovia after the WHO declared the epidemic was over. (© AP Images)

The largest and deadliest outbreak of Ebola ever seen is over … in Liberia at least.

More than 45 days have passed since the last known Ebola transmission in Liberia. With no new cases during that time, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared an end to the Liberian epidemic.

The story is different in neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone, where 27 new Ebola cases were confirmed in early May, according to WHO. Monitoring and sanitation practices that contained the disease in Liberia must be kept in place.

Almost 4,600 Liberians died from Ebola, another 5,835 fell ill, and countless more suffered as every social sector reeled from a deadly and frightening epidemic.

A WHO statement credits achievement of this public health milestone to the contributions of many: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Liberian government and communities, local and international health workers, and supportive global partners, particularly the U.S. government.

Liberians carry current and historical versions of the national flag in post-Ebola revelry. (© AP Images)

With the WHO announcement that the Liberian outbreak is over, the U.S. State Department congratulated the Liberian people but urged continued vigilance.

“The United States will remain fully engaged in a partnership with West Africa to build the capacity within the region to prevent, detect, and respond to future outbreaks before they become epidemics,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also responded to the WHO declaration by easing its recommendation against casual travel to Liberia.

More than 11,000 have died in the regional outbreak of Ebola, the most extensive occurrence of the disease since its first detection in 1976. CDC responded with the largest international mobilization of its 70-year history. CDC assigned thousands of employees to the outbreak, with more than 1,900 deployments of agency personnel to West Africa and 3,000 CDC employees assigned to the agency’s Emergency Operations Center in Atlanta.

U.S. assistance, combined with CDC and international expertise, has helped boost local resources and skills to respond to public health emergencies. That is a long-term asset that will help the region completely eradicate Ebola and be better prepared for the next health threat.