The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the end of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia today, The New York Times reports. During a press conference in the country's capital, Monrovia, WHO officials said that 42 days (two maximum incubation periods of the virus) had passed since the burial of the last person confirmed to have been infected.
Liberia was one of three West African countries hit hardest by the virus, along with Guinea and Sierra Leone. Since March 2014, when the WHO confirmed the first infection in Liberia, there have been more than 3,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of the outbreak in the country, and at least 7,400 probable cases. More than 4,700 people have likely died from Ebola in Liberia, the Times reports.
Outbreaks in neighboring countries are still a concern
In the past week, Guinea and Sierra Leone each reported nine cases — the lowest weekly total for those countries this year, according to the WHO. But health officials say Liberia must remain vigilant. "We are very much concerned about Guinea and Sierra Leone," Tolbert Nyenswah, a senior Liberian health official said, according to the Times.
Although the number of confirmed Ebola cases in Guinea and Sierra Leone is shrinking, Liberia must remain mindful of outbreaks in neighboring countries. Bruce Aylward, head of the WHO's Ebola response efforts, says even those nine cases are reason enough for caution in Liberia. He says it took several months for Liberia to get its number of outbreaks from single digits to zero, the Times reports.
"Let us celebrate, but stay mindful and vigilant," Liberia's president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said, according to the Times. The WHO has suggested Liberia maintain a state of "heightened surveillance" for the next three months.