Guinea Almost Ebola-Free After Last Known Patient Recovers

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Guinea Ebola-FreeGuinea is one step closer to officially being declared Ebola-free, now that the last known patient with the disease has officially been cleared.

The patient is a 19-day-old baby who was born at the Ebola treatment center to a woman who had contracted the virus. Although the mother unfortunately didn’t survive, the baby has been given a clean bill of health. A spokesperson for the country’s Ebola coordination unit confirmed that after completing treatment on the young patient, health officials conducted two more tests, which both came back negative. As a result, the child was released from the treatment center in Conakry, Guinea.

Since this was the last confirmed case of Ebola in Guinea, and if no new patients are diagnosed over the next six weeks (twice the duration of the standard Ebola incubation period), the World Health Organization (WHO) will officially declare the end of Ebola transmission in the West African nation.

While the finish line is still more than a month away, it’s a positive sign for Guinea, which is where the epidemic first started almost two years ago. Over 11,000 people have died from Ebola so far, with 2,500 of them being in Guinea.

Guinea was one of the countries hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak and is currently the only one still fighting it—neighboring Liberia was declared Ebola-free earlier this year and Sierra Leone was cleared just 10 days ago.

According to the WHO, the problem in Guinea has been that they’re still diagnosing Ebola after death. “It means that the messages (about vigilance) are still not percolating through and all the importance of those actions are not being realized,” explained Margaret Harris, a spokesperson for the WHO.

Clearing Ebola in Guinea would be a major milestone, since this is where the virus is believed to have originated in December 2013. It quickly spread to neighboring countries, triggering worldwide humanitarian efforts to try and contain the outbreak.

The baby who was cleared of her diagnosis is said to be doing well, despite being infected at birth. She responded positively to treatment and has since tested negative for the virus, making her the first baby to be born with Ebola and survive. “We’ve never had such a young survivor. So there are still a lot of things we are learning in taking care of her,” said Laurence Sailly, a coordinator for Doctors Without Borders.

Before this baby, there were two other pregnant women and four other children who were diagnosed, but all six patients have either died or made a full recovery. With this last patient now testing negative, there are no other known cases.

Although the end is in sight for Guinea, officials are still planning to be extra vigilant, especially over the next six weeks, for new cases that might hinder their achievements thus far. “We are very happy,” said Sailly. “But we are very cautious.”

Sources for Today’s Article:
“After nearly 2 years, Guinea starts countdown to end of Ebola transmission,” CTV News web site, November 17, 2015;
Zoroya, G., “Last known Ebola patient in West Africa recovers,” USA Today web site, November 17, 2015;