Thursday 8 December 2016

Ebola death in Sierra Leone raises new fears

Carole Fuente in Freetown

Published 16/01/2016 | 02:30

Ebola has killed more than 11,300 people, mostly in west Africa, since it emerged at the end of 2013 (AP)
Ebola has killed more than 11,300 people, mostly in west Africa, since it emerged at the end of 2013 (AP)

A woman who died this week in Sierra Leone tested positive for Ebola, officials said, in a setback for the region the day after the World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared the epidemic over.

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The WHO warned on Thursday that new Ebola cases were possible even after virus transmission was halted in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea - the three African nations hardest hit by the epidemic that left more than 11,300 people dead.

Already 10 other flare-ups have taken place in areas where virus transmission was thought to have ended, raising new questions about WHO procedures in assessing whether an epidemic is over.

The global health body said Sierra Leone's government was moving rapidly to contain the new threat, but it was not clear how the 22-year-old woman who died contracted Ebola. All known transmission chains in that country had been halted in November.

Francis Langoba Kellie, a spokesman for Sierra Leone's Office of National Security, said the woman had come from the country's Kambia district and had gone to the Tonkolili district for medical care.

Authorities are tracing her contacts and have dispatched teams to the area to investigate how she might have contracted the virus and if she might have infected others. Certain areas will be quarantined, he said.

The WHO declared the latest Ebola outbreak over in Liberia on Thursday after no new cases emerged there during a 42-day waiting period. That benchmark had already been met in Guinea and Sierra Leone.

"Our...response capabilities are very high and there is no cause for concern," said Mr Kellie. "We encourage the public to continue to practise the hygiene regulations which were in force during the period while Ebola was raging and the emergency regulations are still in force."

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said "there is a risk, and this outbreak is in a critical phase right now, where we are moving from case management to management of risk."

Irish Independent

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