The United Nations has been making great progress in quelling the Ebola outbreak that gutted West Africa in 2013 and 2014, as new cases dropped below 20 for the first time since the middle of last year.
According to UN envoy on Ebola David Nabarro, the week ended May 3 saw only nine new cases confirmed in Guinea, and another nine reported in Sierra Leone. Liberia had no new cases for the second straight week. Quotes attributed to Nabarro suggest that he is confident Liberia would officially be Ebola-free by World Health Organization standards by May 9, which would be the 42nd day since the last case reported in the country. That’s also twice the maximum time it takes for Ebola to incubate.
“This is extraordinary progress,” said Nabarro, speaking Tuesday at a Dakar news conference. “For those of us involved in this, we have got used to having good news one week, bad news the next, so we are not starting to celebrate yet, but we are feeling positive.” The current Ebola outbreak, which had first broken out in southeastern Guinea in December 2013, is considered the worst in history, having killed about 10,980 individuals and infected another 26,500.
Additionally, Nabarro stated that the share of new cases that had come in contact with previously identified victims is now past 50 percent, and headed toward the 75 percent mark. This is considered a key statistic in determining how well local health officials are handling the Ebola outbreak. “We are moving towards the end, but we just don’t know when it will come,” Nabarro added. “In Liberia it took a long time – it took about two months to move from single-figure cases to zero – so we are not anticipating that this will be a very rapid thing.” He encouraged health officials not to “turn away” and ease up on their efforts, telling them to “finish (the fight against Ebola) and finish it well.”