On Thursday March 5, Beatrice Yardolo, 58 years old, Liberia’s last confirmed Ebola patient was released from the clinic located in the capital of Monrovia . This is an important moment for West Africa as is symbolizes the beginning of the end of the Ebola epidemic that lasted one year.
The country is not celebrating yet as there are 106 people kept under surveillance after coming into contact with Ebola patients. Liberia can be declared Ebola-free only after 42 days without a single case.
One year ago, West African authorities identified numerous cases of fever in different villages. The symptoms led to them announcing it was Ebola, an illness that spreads after coming into contact with the bodily fluids of someone infected. When infected, the person shows signs of fever, internal bleeding and in the end, organ failure.
At one point, the outbreak was so intense that the number of Ebola patients was doubling every month. Clinics were over-populated and some of the infected people slept outside and even died waiting to receive treatment. Approximately 24,000 people were infected and about 10,000 lost their lives.
There are countries where Ebola is still an active disease. In Guinea and Sierra Leone, Ebola is still taking lives, one of which was Sierra Leone Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana’s bodyguard.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization announced on Thursday March 5 that a new vaccine rVSV-EBOV will be tested on one participant by Sunday March 8. Up until now, no Ebola vaccines obtained approval.
The third phase of the vaccine trial is planned to start in Basse Guinée, a region in Guinea considered to have the highest number of Ebola cases.
WHO plans to test the vaccine through a strategy called ring vaccination, also used in the past, during the 1970s eradication of smallpox. This method involves vaccinating all contacts of a newly infected Ebola patient thus creating “a ring of vaccined individuals around the patient”.
The Public Health Agency of Canada developed this new vaccine. It was licensed under New Link Genetics Corp. of Ames, Iowa.
There is a second vaccine currently being developed by GlaxoSmithKlinePLC together with the U.S. National Institutes for Health. According to the WHO, testing will begin as soon as supplies are made available.
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