CONAKRY - Guinea's last Ebola patient has recovered and the countdown is on. If there are no new Ebola cases for 42 days, the World Health Organization will declare Guinea Ebola-free.
The countdown began Monday after Guinea discharged its last Ebola case, a three-week-old baby. Her parents and four other family members died. The remaining 68 people under quarantine have been released after testing negative.
The head of the National Coordination for the Fight Against Ebola, Dr. Sakoba Keita, says Guinea will continue community education and radio campaigns.
Keita is confident if they continue these methods,WHO will declare the end of Ebola in Guinea on December 29. He says that will be a special year-end gift for the country.
According to the doctor, they identified the maximum number of contacts possible related to the last known cluster of cases.
He says in July last year we were almost close to the end of Ebola when infected people from Sierra Leone and Liberia entered the country sparking fresh outbreaks. But this time, things are different Keita says.
Guinea was the last country reporting new cases. The WHO declared Sierra Leone Ebola-free on November 7, and Liberia on September 3.
On the streets of Conakry, people are welcoming the news cautiously.
"What I'm telling the government is to not fold their hands. Everything has slowed down because of Ebola," one person said. "This is a good news but we are worried until we see the government deploy more effort."
This regional epidemic, the worst Ebola outbreak in history, began in Guinea's southwestern forest region almost two years ago. More than 28,000 contracted the virus; more than 11,000 died.
Experts are encouraging continued vigilance. Scientists are concerned that the virus may remain active in bodily tissues or semen for possibly months after recovery.
Guinea has closed some of its Ebola treatment units but those in Conakry and the west of the country remain open just in case.