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WHO: Liberia is Ebola-free

Members of the Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET) dance, sing and pray on May 8, 2015 in Monrovia.
Members of the Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET) dance, sing and pray on May 8, 2015 in Monrovia.

The World Health Organization has declared Liberia free of the Ebola virus.

The move comes after Liberia reported no new Ebola cases for 42 days, twice the maximum incubation period for the deadly disease.

"Interruption of transmission is a monumental achievement for a country that reported the highest number of deaths in the largest, longest, and most complex outbreak since Ebola first emerged in 1976," said the WHO in a statement.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told the Associated Press news agency Saturday the damage from the outbreak was "a scar on the conscience of the world." She said for some survivors, "The pain and grief will take a generation to heal."

White House congratulates Liberians

The White House said Saturday it is "pleased" by the official end of the outbreak, calling it "an important marker" and congratulating the Liberian people for reaching it. But the statement from the office of U.S. President Barack Obama's press secretary stressed more must be done.

"While this milestone is important, the world must not forget that the Ebola outbreak still persists in neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea," the White House statement said. "We must not let down our guard until the entire region reaches and stays at zero Ebola cases. And we must all work together to strengthen capacity around the world to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to outbreaks before they become epidemics."

Sierra Leone and Guinea each reported nine cases of the disease last week.

The WHO has also announced changes to its post-Ebola guidelines. The agency is urging formerly infected men and their sexual partners to either abstain from sex or practice safe sex for six months, enough time to have two semen tests that are negative for the Ebola virus.

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