The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that Ebola no longer constitutes an extraordinary event and that the risk of international spread is now low.
Since the outbreak in December 2013 in West Africa, Ebola has claimed more than 11, 300 lives.
WHO said that it is confident that although new clusters of Ebola cases continue to emerge due to reintroductions of the virus as it is cleared from the survivor population, the numbers are decreasing and can be contained.
This it said during the 9th meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) regarding the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa.
The teleconference meeting on Tuesday, 29 March 2016 told the Director-General that since its last meeting all three countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone) “have met the criteria for confirming interruption of their original chains of Ebola virus transmission.”
Dr Chan noted that three countries remain vulnerable to Ebola occurrences, including an ongoing cluster of cases in Guinea, which has left five people dead.
According to the meeting, the countries have now completed the 42-day observation period and additional 90-day enhanced surveillance period since their last case that was linked to the original chain of transmission twice tested negative. Guinea achieved this milestone on 27 March 2016.
The UN’s health agency said all original chains of virus transmission have now stopped and the risk of international spread is now low.
Dr Chan’s statement brings to an end a nearly 20-month emergency that started in Guinea in late 2013, saw 28,638 cases emerge and 11,300 deaths.
Lift temporary recommendations
The Director-General called on governments to terminate the temporary recommendations adopted in response to the menace.
However, Chan has emphasized that “there should be no restrictions on travel and trade with Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and that any such measures should be lifted immediately.”
Speaking about the risk of sexual transmission, Chan called for further work on a possible Ebola vaccine and better diagnostic tests.
"Semen can be positive for more than a year," she said, referring to the 1 to 2 percent of survivors whose semen contains Ebola virus or virus particles for that long.
The WHO said affected countries must make sure that male survivors can have their semen tested.
The Committee reinforced that these countries must maintain the capacity and readiness to prevent, detect and respond to any ongoing and/or new clusters in future.
They called for continued international donor and technical support to prevent, detect and respond rapidly to any new Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Image Credit: Flickr/EC/ECHO/Jean-Louis Mosser