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West Africa was only Ebola-free for about 24 hours

AP/Aurelie Marrier d'Unienville
Men on motorbikes pass a wall with ‘We go wash Ebola’ in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Published This article is more than 2 years old.

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed a new Ebola case in Sierra Leone today, Jan. 15. The news comes just one day after the WHO declared West Africa Ebola-free.

Health officials in Sierra Leone announced today that a woman’s body had tested positive for the Ebola virus, reported the New York Times. The finding sent health workers into a flurry to find people she had interacted with. Ebola, a lethal virus, is transmitted through direct contact with blood or bodily fluids and can be passed from a corpse to the living.

Yesterday was the first time that Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea—the three countries hardest hit by the virus outbreak that began two years ago—had gone 42 days without any new Ebola cases. Sierra Leone was declared Ebola-free on Nov. 7, 2015, and Guinea hit that mark on Dec. 29, 2015. Liberia was the last to be cleared.

However, the WHO did warn that the three countries remained at risk for new cases of Ebola. They are currently under an enhanced 90-day monitoring program by the international organization. Any flare-ups would be “likely the result of the virus persisting in survivors even after recovery,” and not part of the original outbreak, the WHO said Thursday. At least 10 such cases had been reported thus far.

More than 11,000 people in West Africa have died of Ebola since Dec. 2013 (pdf, p. 2). Almost 4,000 of those deaths were in Sierra Leone.

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