END OF EBOLA?

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The ar­ti­cle in the Jan­uary is­sue about Ian Crozier, the doc­tor who beat Ebola and then had to con­tend with an in­stance of iso­lated re­crude­s­cence, was a real eye­opener. (Pun in­tended!) It made me think about var­i­ous out­breaks that have come and gone. It’s easy to for­get about them when they’re not front and cen­ter in our minds, but even af­ter the news dies down the prob­lem per­sists some­where. What’s the cur­rent sta­tus of the Ebola epi­demic? Is the out­break com­pletely over, or is there a chance it could re­turn with full force again? Peter Stan­ton via email

De­spite drop­ping out of the head­lines, the Ebola out­break is not quite over. In June of 2015 new cases of Ebola sur­faced in Liberia, though the coun­try had ini­tially been de­clared free of Ebola virus trans­mis­sion the month be­fore on May 9. But on Septem­ber 3 the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion once again de­clared Liberia free of the virus. In neigh­bor­ing Guinea and Sierra Leone, though, lim­ited Ebola cases are still oc­cur­ring—al­beit at lev­els nowhere near those seen at the height of the 2014 out­break. A coun­try is con­sid­ered free of hu­man-to-hu­man trans­mis­sion once 42 days have passed, mark­ing two 21-day in­cu­ba­tion pe­ri­ods. How­ever, the risk re­mains for some time: Ebola pathogens have been found in the se­men of male sur­vivors up to three months af­ter their blood sam­ples have tested neg­a­tive for the virus. As Fran­cis Karteh from Liberia’s Ebola man­age­ment depart­ment warns: “As long as there is one per­son with Ebola in our re­gion, Ebola is still a threat.”

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