Did the Ebola fighters win?
Is the tragic chapter that killed 11,315 people, out of a total of 28,637 cases in two years really behind us? With the “Ebola free” statement for Liberia, the last country which registered cases of infection, the WHO declared the possible end of the pandemic. Nevertheless, this has been an illusory victory, because a last isolated incident was however registered in Sierra Leone the day after the declaration. Illusory, because the virus at hand comes back cyclically after latency periods, since 1976.
As a matter of fact, the WHO reiterated a fundamental warning: “We must not let down the guard”. Because Liberia had already been declared virus-free twice, but each time a fresh cluster of cases unexpectedly emerged. The WHO considers the outbreak of an epidemic as concluded when a nation does not register a new infected patient after 42 days, twice the time of a virus´s incubation period. This period of wait seems to confirm that human-to-human contagion of the virus has stopped in the country. The three most affected countries by this unprecedented epidemic are Guinea, where the first case was registered in December 2013, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The peak of infections was registered in the second half of 2014, counting hundreds of deaths per week, with a significant decrease in 2015, thanks to a massive though belated international mobilization.
WHO’s experts considered that people should stay on alert: “We should not forget about the risk of other outbreaks”, as it is written in the last report on the epidemic. And the world seems to have learnt his lesson: it is necessary to constantly train and update people working in the front line and in the background. From remote villages in the heart of Africa to the most advanced medical facilities of the West, it is essential to provide health professionals with know-how and the best tools, the most authoritative scientific expertise and the most effective organization to manage a possible new outbreak of Ebola and other devastating pandemics.