( 4UMF NEWS )Liberia Declared Free Of Ebola:
Liberia, one of the countries hardest hit by the deadly Ebola outbreak, has been declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will mark the “monumental achievement” in a public ceremony scheduled Monday in the capital of Monrovia.
During the 14-month outbreak, more than 4,700 Liberians died after being infected with the Ebola virus. The country has a population of about four million. The last death was on March 27.
Thousands of Liberian children return to school after a six-month hiatus designed to stem the spread of an Ebola outbreak. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
While Liberia breathes a sigh of relief, its neighbours Guinea and Sierra Leone are still trying to rein in the devastating illness.
In the week ended May 3, the last for which there are detailed statistics, there were 18 cases of Ebola reported, nine each in Guinea and Sierra Leone. Those are the lowest weekly totals this year.
The WHO, however has warned against complacency, a message it also repeated in its official release congratulating Liberia on its Ebola-free status.
“Community vigilance will be essential to preventing re-emergence. WHO joins the Liberian government in recognizing that risk and urging Liberians not to let their guard down until the entire sub-region is free from Ebola.”
The Ebola outbreak is believed to have begun in late December, 2013, in a village close to where the borders of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia converge.
Since then, there have been a total of 26,593 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola, including 11,005 deaths.
One of the groups hardest hit, especially in the early days of the outbreak, was health-care workers. There have been 868 confirmed cases of infection among health-care workers, including 507 deaths.
The good news is there has not been a single infection of a doctor, nurse or health aide for more than three weeks.
The outbreak was the largest, longest and most complex since Ebola was first identified in 1976.
At the height of the crisis, Ebola dominated news headlines worldwide, and schools, businesses and markets were locked down in much of West Africa, devastating the already fragile economy.
As the outbreak winds down, health experts are now turning their attention to the impact on survivors. Many have faced devastating social consequences, having lost family members and being shunned from their villages.
But, in recent weeks, researchers have also identified lingering medical problems, which they have dubbed post-Ebola syndrome.
Many survivors have devastating complications such as blindness and hearing loss.
One peculiarity of the virus is that, even after it is cleared from the system and no longer shows up in blood tests, it appears to linger in the eye.
A study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that Ian Crozier, an American physician who was infected in Sierra Leone, saw the iris of his eye turn from blue to green. Tests showed that while his blood was Ebola-free, the virus lingered in his eye. The condition later cleared up, and his eyes returned to their original colour.
Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s head in Africa, told Agence France-Presse that more than half of Ebola survivors have lingering visual problems, up to and including blindness, as well as hearing loss and aches and fatigue that are common in patients recovering from a severe infection.
It is not clear if the vision problems are due to the virus or to the use of powerful disinfectant chemicals, which is commonplace in Ebola treatment facilities.
There is also evidence that the virus can persist in semen, so public-health officials have urged survivors not to have unprotected sex for at least six months.
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