Sierra Leone Declared Free of Ebola Virus by UN Health Agency

  • World Health Organization says no cases since September
  • Nation becomes second to stop spread of deadly disease

Sierra Leone has halted the transmission of the Ebola virus, the World Health Organization said on Saturday, making it the second West African nation to eradicate the disease.

No cases of the deadly virus were reported since September, when the last confirmed Ebola patient had a second negative blood test, according to a statement from the Geneva-based agency. WHO monitors a country for two incubation cycles of the virus, or 42 days. Sierra Leone now begins 90 day of additional monitoring, a phase critical for ensuring early detection of any new cases, the WHO said.

The U.K. government, which has deployed military personnel, health-care workers and humanitarian staff in response to the outbreak, commended Sierra Leone.

“Defeating Ebola has been a long and difficult journey,” said U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. “We know that Ebola may re-emerge and so complacency must be avoided. The U.K. will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Sierra Leone in their effort to build the level of resilience needed to deal with future outbreaks and to deliver their plans for the post-Ebola recovery.”

A Scottish nurse, Pauline Cafferkey, 39, caught the virus while working in Sierra Leone for the U.K. charity Save the Children in December.

Since Sierra Leone recorded its first case in May 2014, 3,589 people died and 8,704 were infected with the virus, WHO representative Anders Nordstrom said in the statement. Of those who died, 221 were health-care workers, the agency said.

Liberia, the West African nation where Ebola killed the most people in the largest outbreak of the virus, was declared free of the disease on May 9. More than 11,000 people died from the virus, which began in late 2013 and spread to Guinea and Sierra Leone.

The outbreak pushed the three nations into a recession and delayed plans for rebuilding decaying infrastructure in the three countries.

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