For the people of West Africa, these several weeks have seen the ebbing of Ebola cases. However the disease refuse to go without a fight. It continue to infect albeit fewer number of people. Health workers were also infected and so was the the vice president of Liberia.
For the past several months, West Africa has been plagued by an unprecedented Ebola epidemic. The outbreak is the largest ever, and is currently affecting three countries in West Africa: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. During the last weeks, a downward trend of new cases has been reported. While this is a promising development, the World Health Organization reported waning interest in Ebola could put at risk efforts to stamp out the world’s worst recorded outbreak of the disease.
Case numbers have fallen to a low level and it should be possible to stop transmission by mid-year, but the disease is “not waning” and it is much too early to assume the outbreak will end, said WHO Assistant Director General Bruce Aylward.
He told reporters in Geneva, “We talk often about how steep the drop in cases has been. The only thing that has dropped more quickly and more steeply is the new contributions in financing.”
The year-old Ebola outbreak has killed 9,976 people and fears of its spread commanded headlines globally in the second half of last year.
The total case number has dwindled to a range of 100-150 for almost the past eight weeks and the disease has been geographically concentrated around Freetown and Conakry, the capitals of Sierra Leone and Guinea respectively. But the failure to make further inroads is “alarming”, Aylward said.
“Getting from here to zero is going to require another reinvestment (in the drive to tackle the outbreak).”
Liberia has no new cases in the past 20 days but before it is declared Ebola free, it will need to count up to 42 days from its last Ebola test negative result.
The country worst hit by the outbreak is Sierra Leone that has reported 58 cases in the past week, the lowest figure since last June. Guinea had the same number of new cases, bringing the cumulative number of cases in all three countries to 24,282.
As the epidemic retreats, the affected countries after Ebola struck became difficult to visit, invest or work, Aylward said.
“Today those travel challenges still remain, direct foreign investment has not returned to the countries, and at the same time it’s no longer in the press, it’s no longer in front of people … They need international assistance more than ever to get the job finished,” he said.
A single new case is enough to reignite an outbreak; the level of vigilance should remain high in order not to jeopardize the progress made in stemming the epidemic.