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The country where the Ebola epidemic started was just declared Ebola-free

Medical workers in Guinea with Noubia, a baby who was the last known Ebola patient in the country.
Medical workers in Guinea with Noubia, a baby who was the last known Ebola patient in the country.
Cellou Binani/AFP via Getty Images
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Exactly two years after a two-year-old boy died of Ebola in Guinea, starting the largest outbreak of the disease in history, Guinea is officially Ebola-free, the World Health Organization announced Tuesday. The declaration was made because it's been 42 days since the last reported case in the country.

The epidemic is now officially over in two of the three West African countries most affected by the outbreak: Guinea, where Ebola infected 3,800 people and killed more than 2,500, and Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone, where the Ebola epidemic killed nearly 4,000 people and infected 14,000, was declared Ebola-free on November 7. Liberia — the third country most affected by the epidemic — won't be considered free of the disease until January 14 at the earliest.

Although an official end to the Ebola epidemic in all three countries would be a major milestone, it's possible that new cases could continue emerge later.

For instance, Liberia has been declared Ebola-free twice before, in May and in September, but new cases later emerged. The three cases reported in Liberia in late November came from an Ebola patient who had been previously treated but still carried the disease in bodily fluids, according to the WHO.

Go deeper:

  • An oral history of the Ebola outbreak from 12 people who were close to it, from the family members of Ebola victims to doctors treating the disease.
  • There are reasons to be optimistic — at least cautiously optimistic — about an Ebola vaccine tested in Guinea.
  • The New York Times looked at the effort to reduce Ebola cases in Guinea in November.

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