For the humanity, World Health Organisation’s recent announcement that Ebola, one of the deadliest epidemics of recent times, has been successfully eradicated comes as great relief. However, there is widespread apprehension that the killer virus is likely to make a comeback anytime anywhere in the world, and it is high time that a preventive vaccine is developed.
The two-year Ebola epidemic had killed 11,000 people and triggered a global health alert. The deadliest outbreak in the history of the feared tropical virus wrecked the economies and health systems of the three worst-hit West African nations after it emerged in southern Guinea in December 2013.
At its peak, it devastated Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with bodies piling up in the streets and overwhelmed hospitals, recording hundreds of new cases a week.“Today World Health Organisation (WHO) declares the end of the most recent outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Liberia and says all known chains of transmission have been stopped in West Africa,” the UN health agency announced on Liberian state radio recently.
However, apprehensions are rife as to the chance of such diseases making a comeback anytime anywhere. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned the region can expect sporadic cases in the coming year, but added “we also expect the potential and frequency of those flare-ups to decrease over time.”
Rick Brennan, chief of emergency risk management and humanitarian response of World Health Organisation hailed the eradication of Ebola as an important milestone but said that “the job is still not done”, pointing out that there had already been 10 small flare-ups because of the persistence of the virus in survivors.
“The pronouncement today is a joy but does not call for celebration because we may experience another outbreak,” NGOs who led the fight against the diseases says. Liberia, the country worst hit by the outbreak with 4,800 deaths, discharged its last two patients from hospital – the father and younger brother of a 15-year-old victim – on December 3, 2015, according to reports.
Africa’s oldest republic was the last country still afflicted by the outbreak that infected almost 29,000 people and claimed 11,315 lives, according to official data. The real toll is suspected to be much higher, with many Ebola deaths believed to have gone unreported. After the last patient is declared in the clear, a 42-day countdown – twice the incubation period of the virus – begins before the country is proclaimed Ebola-free.
(Read the full article in February Issue of Safety Messenger Magazine 2016)