Think the Ebola Crisis Is Over? It’s Not That Simple

Last week, the World Health Organization officially announced that, with Liberia having now passed the waiting period for the last known infections of Ebola, the Ebola crisis that has gripped much of West Africa since 2014 is officially, and finally, over.

Except…that it isn’t completely over.

What WHO was announcing in last week’s statement was that the last known major “transmission pathway”–which is jargon for chain of infection–has now been closed as a result of people being treated and their being given the all-clear, which technically should mean the end to any wide scale Ebola outbreaks.

That’s a considerable victory given how vast the outbreak had become. The modern outbreak of the virus emerged in southern Guinea in December 2013, but world health authorities were slow to react. As a result of this, by early 2014 Ebola had gripped several other nations including Liberia and Sierra Leone. Current estimates suggesting the virus has claimed over 11,300 people and possibly compromised the health of many more. 

But even as this announcement was made, officials were clear: This doesn’t mean that the Ebola threat is over. Far from it. Isolated cases were still popping up even as the media was reporting on this, and that will likely continue through 2016 as a result of people who have had Ebola finding that they have relapsed, as well as that Ebola may still be active in bodily fluids meaning that sexual transmission and other forms of transmission are still possible. Those small outbreaks will then require isolation and treatment to ensure the virus does not spread. Of itself, and so long as governments remain vigilant, that isn’t too worrying.

However, just hours after announcing the official end to the major outbreak, a new case emerged in Sierra Leone that could present more of a problem.

Reports say that a 22-year-old woman, identified as Mariatu Jalloh and who died from Ebola earlier in the week, may have exposed at least 27 people to the virus.

Jalloh had been studying in Port Loko in Sierra Leone’s Northern Province. She traveled to Bamoi Luma near the border with Guinea late in 2015. It is thought that she may have picked up Ebola there because, despite that region being declared clear in November, isolated cases were hard to track and so it’s possible she came into contact with someone who may have been carrying the virus.

When she returned home, Jalloh sought treatment at a local hospital on January 8 where a health worker–who was reportedly not wearing protective clothing–took a blood sample, but it is not clear whether they tested her for Ebola. In any case, Jallow was treated as an outpatient and released to return to her parent’s house. She died on January 12, whereby subsequent tests revealed that she had in fact contracted the virus.

Reuters highlights that there may have been several mistakes in how Jallow’s case was handled, and that these oversights at the government hospital now could mean a more substantial outbreak:

Ben Neuman, an Ebola expert and lecturer in virology at Britain’s University of Reading, said: “My first thought is that a hospital in Sierra Leone completely misdiagnosing a case of Ebola, apparently without sending a sample to one of the many testing labs that are being kept open for just this reason is ridiculous -completely unacceptable.”

Does this mean that the World Health Organization was too hasty in declaring an end to the wider crisis as many newspaper reports are implying? Probably not. Even if the victim in this case has spread Ebola to several other people it is still conceivable that with precautionary isolation, testing and treatment this case can be handled swiftly and with minimum fall-out. What this does serve to illustrate neatly, and something that WHO stressed at the time of its announcement, is that governments and health workers cannot afford to become complacent.

Put simply, while the spread of Ebola as a wide scale threat may now be over, the potential for other outbreaks remains and it is now the job of West African governments to reaffirm their preventative measures while working with international health bodies like the World Health Organization to ensure that there are protections and plans in place to ensure that an epidemic does not happen again.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

43 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Peggy B.
Peggy B1 years ago

Anyone traveling to foreign countries should always inform their doctor if the become ill to be checked for any illness that can be acquired from the country they are returning from.

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Charmaine C.
Charmaine C1 years ago

Thank you for the heads up to remain vigilant.

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Sen Heijkamp
Sayenne H1 years ago

Scary virus.. :(

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Steven G.
Steven G1 years ago

Question everything... Strange that the 2014 ebola outbreaks that started in four countries, there just happened to be US bio-weapons labs in three of them. It wasn't the classical hemorrhagic ebola virus of the past either, but one that was bio-engineered. Also, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA - part of the Department of Defense) tested nano-silver in 1999 and disclosed (declassified in 2009) that definitively, Nano Silver 10 PPM supports normal cell membrane integrity and stops ebola dead in its tracks.

One more thing. During that period, a WHO representative publically announced that any and all options (cures) that anyone or agency would like to try would be automatically approved by Who... (anything that is, except Nano Silver because it works.)

Well, President Koroma ejected the WHO Representative for trying to stop Nano Silver 10 PPM from getting to Ebola-Torn Sierra Leone... and lives were saved and the media was suddenly silenced.

And now they (Medical Mafia/BIG Pharma) are up to their fear mongering bullshit again.

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Sharon S.
Sharon S1 years ago

Sadly, the crisis does not seem to be over.

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Janet B.
Janet B1 years ago

Thanks

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Patricia Harris
John Taylor1 years ago

This is merely one of Mother Nature's punishments for the majority of humans who show complete disregard for her children!!

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jade c.
jade O1 years ago

well if they wasn't murdering animals for example monkeys and bats they probably wouldn't have this bad Karma! there are less humans murdering animals now that's the silver lining.

it's a terrible thing what suffering ebola has caused. it's heartbreaking what people go through who have it, even murderers don't deserve that.

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Anne Moran
Anne M1 years ago

Seems like Ebola is a tough one to shake off...

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