9 May 2015

Ebola-free’ Liberia warned against complacency

After 42 days without a new case, the west African state of Liberia, the country worst hit by the latest Ebola outbreak, is declared free of the disease by medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Matt Frei talks to Mariateresa Cacciapuoti, head of mission in Liberia for Medecins Sans Frontiers

But MSF urged vigilance until the worst-ever recorded outbreak was extinguished in neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone.

A total of 11,005 people have died from Ebola in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone since the outbreak began in December 2013, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Nearly half of those deaths have been in Liberia, where the outbreak peaked between August and October 2014 with hundreds of cases a week, sparking international alarm. The US sent in hundreds of troops to help build treatment clinics in a country founded by freed US slaves.

Helped by the US military presence, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s government launched a national awareness campaign to stem the infectious disease, which is spread by physical contact with sick people.

Read more from Channel 4 News's coverage of the Ebola outbreak

Cross-border surveillance

MSF said that Liberia’s completion of the WHO’s benchmark for the end of an Ebola epidemic – 42 days without a new case, marking twice the maximum incubation period of the virus – should not lead to complacency.

“We can’t take our foot off the gas until all three countries record 42 days with no cases,” said Mariateresa Cacciapuoti, MSF’s head of mission in Liberia. She urged Liberia to step up cross-border surveillance to prevent Ebola slipping back into the country.

International aid organisations were forced to step in as the Ebola outbreak ravaged the region’s poorly equipped and understaffed healthcare systems.

MSF – which was highly critical of the slow response by the UN and western governments – opened the world’s largest Ebola management centre in Monrovia, with a capacity of 400 beds.

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