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Hours after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the end of the Ebola epidemic in West-Afirca, Sierra Leone confirmed a new death. It's not over for the hardest hit continent after two years of struggle.

Ebola is over, said the World Health Organization on 14 January 2016. The vast spreading disease seemed contained after Libera was officially declared Ebola-free this Thursday. With Sierra Leone declared free of Ebola transmission on 7 November 2015 and Guinea on 29 December, the epidemic seemed to have been stopped completely. Just hours after the WHO announcement, a new case in Sierra Leone was reported. 

The Ebola epidemic claimed the lives of more than 11,300 people and infected over 28,500 in West-Africa. It devastated families, communities and economic systems in whole countries, including Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Expecting new cases

More flare-ups were already expected, the WHO said in the statement. Strong surveillance and quick responses will still be essential in the coming months.

"Detecting and breaking every chain of transmission has been a monumental achievement," said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General in the WHO statement. "So much was needed and so much was accomplished by national authorities, heroic health workers, civil society, local and international organizations and generous partners. But our work is not done and vigilance is necessary to prevent new outbreaks." Sadly, a new case in Sierra Leone would be reported that same day. WHO cautions that all of the 3 countries, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia, remain at high risk of additional small outbreaks. 

Handwashing & hygiene 

IRC has been following the Ebola outbreak in West-Africa closely from the start and will continue to do so. At the time of the outbreak in Sierra Leone, IRC and partners were supporting the government of Sierra Leone in launching an initiative for learning in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector.

Read the story of Peter Abdulai during the outbreak of the epidemic

Clean drinking water, safe hygiene and sanitation are of great importance. In the case of Ebola, the virus spreads through direct contact or indirectly through contact with materials that have been contaminated with infected bodily fluids, with a case fatality rate of up to 90%. Washing hands with soap and water, keeping a clean environment, use protective gear and education about Ebola are of high importance in fighting the virus.

 

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