The Liberan government will release the last known Ebola patient today, Front Page Africa reports, capping off a nearly yearlong battle with the vicious disease.
The patient — a 58-year-old English teacher named Beatrice Yardolo — had spent the last two weeks at a Chinese-run treatment center outside of Monrovia. After multiple tests, she was declared free of the virus.
"We [Liberia], for the first time as a country since the second wave [of the Ebola outbreak], will be discharging the last confirmed Ebola case, and there will be a discharge ceremony on the known last Ebola case," said a Liberian official, a matter of weeks before the one-year March 24 anniversary when Ebola was first documented in Liberia.
"We are not out of the woods yet," he added, urging caution. That's because — while it has been over a week since the country last confirmed a case — health officials are still monitoring 102 potential patients. In order to officially be Ebola-free, 42 days — or two full cycles of the disease — need to pass without a new diagnosis.
Now the country needs to move into its recovery phase, which will stretch out for much longer than the one-year epidemic that struck West Africa.
Liberia needs a Marshall Plan, says President
The Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf today called for an Ebola-focused version of the "Marshall Plan" to reinvigorate the devastated economies of West Africa.
"The most important long-term response to Ebola rests on plans and strategies for economic recovery. This will require significant resources, perhaps even a Marshall Plan," Sirleaf said in Deutsche Welle.
People have been out of work, children have been out of school, and the focus on Ebola has meant that a lot of routine health care in the country has been ignored. The New York Times reports that Liberia has seen bouts of vaccine-preventable diseases — such as whooping cough — make a comeback.
A promising Ebola vaccine trial is underway
But there is good news. The World Health Organization announced today that an efficacy trial for a Canadian-developed Ebola vaccine will begin in Guinea. Phase three — or efficacy — trials are when researchers test to see whether a drug or vaccine is effective after determining the best dosing and that it is safe.
This is the furthest along an Ebola vaccine has ever made it in a clinical trial and, if successful, it could mean we prevent another outbreak from ever happening.
To date, nearly 10,000 people have died from Ebola, mostly in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. While Liberia seems to be at zero cases for the moment, Guinea and Sierra Leone are still battling outbreaks: according to the WHO, there were 132 new cases in Guinea and Sierra Leone in the week prior to March 1.
The former US Ebola Czar, Ron Klain, recently told Vox that ending the epidemic in all three countries is going to be a challenge.
"We made a lot of progress in the fight, and we have tools on the ground to finish the job. That said, getting from low to zero is the hardest part," he said. "You have to get all the way to zero. That’s going to take time: less time in Liberia, but certainly several more months in Sierra Leone and Guinea."