CONAKRY (REUTERS) - Guinea was declared free of Ebola transmission on Tuesday after more than 2,500 people died from the virus in the West African nation, leaving Liberia as the only country still counting down the days until the end of the epidemic.
The announcement comes 42 days after the last person confirmed with Ebola tested negative for a second time. The country now enters a 90-day period of heightened surveillance, the UN World Health Organisation (WHO) said.
The world’s worst outbreak of the disease began in Gueckedou, eastern Guinea, with an infant, Emile Ouamouno in December 2013 before spreading to Liberia, Sierra Leone and seven other countries. In all, more than 11,300 people died.
At its height, Ebola sparked fear around the world and caused governments and businesses to take precautions.
“I commend the governments, communities and partners for their determination in confronting this epidemic,” said WHO regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti. “As we work towards building resilient health care systems, we need to stay vigilant to ensure that we rapidly stop any new flares that may come up in 2016,” Moeti said.
People in the capital, Conakry, greeted the declaration with mixed emotions given the deaths and the damage the virus did to the economy and the country’s health and education sectors.
“Several of my family are dead. This situation has shown us how much we must fight for those who are survivors,” Fanta Oulen Camara, who works for Medecins Sans Frontieres Belgium (Doctors Without Borders), told Reuters.
“After I got better, the hardest thing was to make people welcome me. Most people that normally supported me abandoned me. Even the school where I was an instructor dropped me. It was very hard,” said Camara, 26, who works as part of the MSF Belgium psycho-social support team and fell ill in March 2014.
Ebola has orphaned about 6,200 children in Guinea, said Rene Migliani, an official at the national coordination centre for the fight against Ebola.
There were more than 3,800 cases in Guinea out of more than 28,600 cases globally, according to WHO.
Almost all the cases and deaths were in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which officially ended its epidemic in November. Liberia has lost more than 4,800 people but could be declared virus-free in January. The country was declared Ebola free in May and September, but each time new cases emerged.
“The time-limited persistence of virus in survivors which may give rise to new Ebola flares in 2016 makes it imperative that partners continue to support these countries,” said Bruce Aylward, WHO special representative for Ebola response.