Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Don't Forget Hard-Won Lessons in Victory over Ebola

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Don't Forget Hard-Won Lessons in Victory over Ebola

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Don't forget hard-won lessons in victory over Ebola

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An editorial from the Toronto Star, published Dec. 29:

The home of the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history has finally been declared free from transmission of the virus. Guinea, in West Africa, was cleared by the World Health Organization on Tuesday, 42 days after the last person there who was still infected with Ebola had tested negative.

It was appropriately hailed as an important milestone in the defeat of an epidemic that killed more than 11,300 people -- five times more than all other documented Ebola outbreaks combined. More than 28,600 were sickened and the Ebola virus spread for the first time to North America, where it triggered fear in millions of people.

Now, two years after claiming its first known victim, a two-year-old who died in a small village in east Guinea in late December 2013, the virus has been beaten into submission. That leaves Liberia as the last country still watching the calendar and counting down days from its last known transmission.

But this is no cause for complacency. On the contrary, the epidemic's up-and-down history illustrates the importance of maintaining an aggressive response to Ebola.

WHO experts and their partners internationally and in West Africa are pledging to stay vigilant, including in Guinea. This is essential since the Ebola virus is remarkably persistent. Even after being cleared from a survivor's bloodstream, it can linger in the semen of some males for as long as a year.

WHO has announced that Guinea is now entering a 90-day period of "heightened surveillance" to ensure any new "flares" of the virus are quickly identified before spreading to other people.

"The coming months will be absolutely critical," said Dr. Bruce Aylward, a key member of WHO's Ebola response team. The organization's outbreak response crews will remain in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone through 2016, he said, "to prevent, detect and respond to any new cases."

That commitment marks a welcome shift from WHO's unsatisfactory response in the early stages of this epidemic, signaling that much has been learned from past failures. …

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