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Sierra Leone nears Ebola-free status

05 June 2015

AP

Cleared: a health worker in Freetown, Sierra Leone, marks a house as being free of the Ebola virus, as he and others search for people showing symptoms

Cleared: a health worker in Freetown, Sierra Leone, marks a house as being free of the Ebola virus, as he and others search for people showing sympt...

A YEAR after the Ebola virus was first confirmed in Sierra Leone, the number of new cases has reached an all-time low, but the country cannot be declared free of the disease until 42 days have passed without a new case.

Last week, eight new cases were reported in the country, down from a peak of 500 a week last winter. Ebola virus was first confirmed in Sierra Leone on 25 May last year, two months after it had reached neighbouring Guinea.

In the past year, more than 8600 people there have been infected, and 3500 have died from it.

Sierra Leone's other neighbour, Liberia, has been declared free of the virus, although the porous borders between the countries have prompted medics to urge caution rather than celebration (News, 15 May).

Christian Aid's programme manager for the Ebola-virus emergency response, Alpha Sankoh, who is based in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, said that the country was "finally showing signs of a returning to normal. Infection rates have been consistently low lately, but the road to zero is a bumpy one: earlier this month, we went eight consecutive days without a new case, but this week new cases have resurfaced. Consequently, we still have some way to go."

The agency is calling for social and economic support to be given to survivors of the virus, their families, and the hardest-hit communities. It would like to see the traditional healers in Sierra Leone being trained to help prevent the spread of infection.

The country's medical infrastructure, which was weak before the virus, is now on the verge of collapse. More than 300 health workers there have been infected with Ebola and more than 220 have died, the World Health Organization reports.

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