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Ebola outbreak no longer a “public health emergency” in west Africa

30 March 2016

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The Ebola outbreak in west Africa is no longer a “public health emergency” the World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced.

The outbreak started in 2014 and claimed the lives of 11,316 people worldwide and 28,639 people were infected with the virus, according to the latest figures from WHO.

There are also 10,000 survivors, including three British nurses:  Pauline Cafferkey, Will Pooley and army reservist Corporal Anna Cross.

They were treated at the Royal Free Hospital in London after contracting the virus while treating patients in Sierra Leone.

WHO’s announcement follows a meeting of its emergency committee which heard from experts from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone about the current situation and the on-going work to detect and respond quickly to any new cluster of cases in their countries.

All three countries have now completed the observation period and enhanced surveillance period since the last cases linked to the original chain of transmission have tested negative.

The emergency committee said it felt “that Ebola transmission in West Africa no longer constitutes an extraordinary event, that the risk of international spread is now low, and that countries currently have the capacity to respond rapidly to new virus emergencies.”

Travel restrictions and trade with Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone should be lifted, WHO said.

It said those countries should maintain their capacity and readiness to prevent, detect and respond to any on-going or new clusters of the virus.

Male survivors should also have their semen tested for virus persistence and should be told of their status.

WHO stressed that survivors with persistent virus excretion should be vaccinated to prevent its transmission during intimate and close contact.

It said there was “crucial need for international donor and technical support to prevent, detect and respond rapidly to any Ebola outbreak in West Africa.”

 International help was needed in maintaining and expanding if needed the diagnostic laboratory and surveillance capacity, along with research and development.

WHO also said it was essential to ensure there is “sufficient and appropriate clinical care, testing capacity and welfare services are available to all survivors of this extraordinary health crisis.”