The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared an end to the Ebola epidemic, which killed more than 11,000 people across West Africa over the course of two years. The UN organization made the announcement at a press conference in Geneva on Thursday, marking 42 days since the last new Ebola case in Liberia, the last country affected by the virus.
"Today the World Health Organization declares the end of the most recent outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Liberia and says all known chains of transmission have been stopped in West Africa," the WHO said.
Ebola killed 4,809 people in Liberia, more than any other country. The country discharged its last two Ebola patients on December 3rd, though UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has warned that West Africa could see "flare ups" in the future. The WHO declared Liberia Ebola-free on two previous occasions, but the virus later resurfaced.
"There's no question that this disease got away from us."
The Ebola outbreak began in December 2013 and soon grew into a global health crisis, infecting more than 28,000 people worldwide. Ebola spreads through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, and is characterized by severe fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and internal bleeding. The epidemic devastated communities in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, and exposed glaring holes in the global health community's emergency response systems. The WHO acknowledged those failures Thursday, saying the organization had learned from its mistakes.
"I think there's been general acknowledgment that WHO and the international community were slow at the start of this outbreak," Dr. Rick Brennan, WHO director of emergency response and humanitarian management, told reporters at today's briefing. "There's no question that this disease got away from us, collectively," he said, adding that the WHO has since implemented reforms to be more responsive to future outbreaks.