Liberia on Thursday discharged its last confirmed Ebola patient from a treatment center in the capital, Monrovia.
Tolbert Nyenswah, Liberia’s assistant minister of health for preventive services, described the development as a milestone.
He said Liberia has gone 12 days without any new confirmed cases of the virus, but added the country cannot and must not be complacent.
“Yesterday was a very good day in Liberia... We have discharged the lone confirmed cured Ebola case in the ETU (Ebola Treatment Unit) in Liberia. It means in Liberia, as of today, we do not have any confirmed Ebola case in our treatment units,” he said. “We know that it is not over yet until it is over. So we’ve been telling our population to remain vigilant, to remain alert, avoid complacency so that we can get to zero as a country,” Nyenswah said.
The World Health Organization said in order for a country to be declared Ebola free it must go 42 days, the equivalent of two incubation periods, without any new confirmed cases of Ebola.
“We have a long road to go yet because we have just gone 13 days. Our 21 days [without infections] in counties like Montserrado with the largest population will be March 13, and then if we can go additional 21 days, which would be 42 days, then we can be hopeful that, yes, Liberia has no transmission of Ebola virus disease in the country,” he said.
While the number Ebola cases in Liberia have declined dramatically, neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone have seen an increase.
Guinea reported 51 new confirmed cases last week, with Sierra Leone reporting 81.
Nyenswah said Liberia remains at risk because bordering towns are still reporting fresh Ebola cases.
He said that as a result, Liberia has launched the third phase in the eradication of the Ebola virus process, focusing on early warning and response.
“Phase three means deepening community engagement. Liberians at this time need to be very, very careful and abide all of the preventive measures that the Ministry of Health has issued to the public. It also means increasing our surveillance,” Nyenswah said.