January 15, 2016

Ebola virus: New case emerges in Sierra Leone, WHO stress risk of more flare-ups

A new case of Ebola has been confirmed in Sierra Leone, reflecting the ongoing risk of new flare-ups of the virus in the Ebola-affected countries. This comes few hours after the World Health Organization declared the latest West Africa Ebola outbreak over.

Tests on a person who died in northern Sierra Leone proved positive, an Ebola test centre spokesman told the BBC.

Ebola test centre spokesman Sidi Yahya Tunis told the BBC that the patient had died in the Tonkolili district. He had travelled there from Kambia, close to the border with Guinea.

WHO reports that the Sierra Leone government acted rapidly to respond to this new case. Through the country’s new emergency operations centre, a joint team of local authorities, WHO and partners are investigating the origin of the case, identifying contacts and initiating control measures to prevent further transmission.

WHO stressed in a statement yesterday (14 January), that Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone remain at high risk of additional small outbreaks of Ebola in the coming months due to the virus persisting in survivors after recovery.

"We are now at a critical period in the Ebola epidemic as we move from managing cases and patients to managing the residual risk of new infections,” said Dr Bruce Aylward, WHO’s Special Representative for the Ebola Response, yesterday. “We still anticipate more flare-ups and must be prepared for them.”

Close to 4,000 people have died of Ebola in Sierra Leone, and 11,000 people across the West African region, since December 2013.

Sierra Leone was declared free of the virus on 7 November 2015, and the region as a whole was cleared when Liberia was pronounced Ebola-free on Thursday.

Although Liberia was the last country to see the end of active transmission of Ebola, it had been declared Ebola-free twice before, only for the infection to re-emerge.

A country is considered free of human-to-human transmission once two 21-day incubation periods have passed since the last known case tested negative for a second time.

WHO notes that Sierra Leone is still in a 90-day period of enhanced surveillance following the declaration on 7 November 2015 of the end of Ebola transmission in the country. This period is designed to ensure no hidden chains of transmission have been missed and to detect any new flare-ups of the disease.

1). World Health Organization. New Ebola case in Sierra Leone. WHO continues to stress risk of more flare-ups. WHO Media Center. Available at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2016/new-ebola-case/en/

2). British Broadcasting Service. Ebola virus: New case emerges in Sierra Leone. BBC News. Available at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-35320363

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