The World Health Organization announced the end of Guinea’s second Ebola outbreak, which began in February and claimed 12 lives, on Saturday.
According to WHO figures, the latest outbreak has only 16 confirmed cases and seven probable infections, owing to the experience from the 2013-16 epidemic, which killed more than 11,300 people, mostly in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. This time, only 12 people were killed.
“I have the honour of declaring the end of Ebola” in Guinea, WHO official Alfred Ki-Zerbo said at a ceremony in the southeastern Nzerekore region where the disease surfaced at the end of January.
According to international standards, Guinea had to wait 42 days — twice the virus’s incubation period — before declaring the epidemic over.
That wait ended on Friday, weeks after the last person was declared cured on May 8, according to a senior health ministry official.
President Alpha Conde, according to Health Minister Remy Lamah, declared the outbreak over “in the name of the head of state.” Around 200 people attended Saturday’s event in a health ministry building, including local religious and community leaders.
“We must also thank the communities who pitched in to overcome the disease,” the WHO’s Ki-Zerbo said.
During the last decade’s outbreak, some people in Guinea’s forested southeast attacked and even killed government employees due to reluctance and outright hostility toward anti-Ebola infection control measures.
“Community engagement, effective public health measures and the equitable use of vaccines” had this time been key to overcoming Ebola, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
The UN agency reported that it had delivered approximately 24,000 vaccine doses to Guinea and that 11,000 people at high risk, including more than 2,800 frontline workers, had received shots.
“We’ve beaten Ebola but let’s remain vigilant” read a banner unfurled at Saturday’s ceremony.
“We must stay alert for a possible resurgence and ensure the expertise in Ebola expands to other health threats such as COVID-19,” WHO Africa director Matshidiso Moeti said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States said in a statement that genetic sequencing revealed links between the previous outbreak and the current epidemic.
According to the CDC, this year’s outbreak could have been caused by “persistent infection in a survivor from the West Africa outbreak” back then, emphasizing the “necessity for strong and ongoing survivor programs” as well as more research.
Ebola causes high fever and, in the worst-case scenario, uncontrollable bleeding. It is spread through close contact with bodily fluids, and those who live with or care for patients are the most vulnerable.