WHO Declares Ebola Transmission Over in Guinea
"The coming months will be absolutely critical," said Dr. Bruce Aylward, special representative of the director-general for the Ebola response at WHO. "WHO will maintain surveillance and outbreak response teams in the three countries through 2016."
Ebola transmission has ended in the Republic of Guinea, the World Health Organization announced Dec. 29, reporting that 42 days have passed since the last person confirmed to have Ebola virus disease tested negative for the second time. The country has entered a 90-day period of increased surveillance to ensure any new case is identified quickly before the disease can spread to other people.
"WHO commends the government of Guinea and its people on the significant achievement of ending its Ebola outbreak. We must render homage to the government and people of Guinea who, in adversity, have shown extraordinary leadership in fighting the epidemic," said Dr. Mohamed Belhocine, WHO's representative in Guinea. "WHO and its partners will continue to support Guinea during the next 90 days of heightened surveillance and in its early efforts to restart and strengthen essential health services throughout 2016."
According to WHO's announcement, this development is an important milestone in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa because the original chain of transmission started two years ago in Gueckedou, Guinea in December 2013, sparking the outbreak that spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone and later, through land and air travel, to seven other countries. "This is the first time that all three countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – have stopped the original chains of transmission that were responsible for starting this devastating outbreak two years ago," said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's regional director for Africa. "I commend the governments, communities, and partners for their determination in confronting this epidemic to get to this milestone. 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."
However, WHO reports that ini addition to the original chain of transmission, there have been 10 new, small Ebola outbreaks between March and November 2015 that appear to have resulted from the re-emergence of a persistent virus from the survivor population. Some male survivors who have recovered from Ebola virus disease and cleared the virus from their bloodstream may have the virus persist in their semen for as long as 9-12 months.
"The coming months will be absolutely critical," said Dr. Bruce Aylward, special representative of the director-general for the Ebola response at WHO. "This is the period when the countries need to be sure that they are fully prepared to prevent, detect, and respond to any new cases. 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. WHO will maintain surveillance and outbreak response teams in the three countries through 2016."