Ebola Epidemic Slows Even More, World Health Organization Says

by Maggie Fox /  / Updated 

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The Ebola epidemic is slowing even more, with just nine new cases reported in Sierra Leone and Guinea last week, the World Health Organization says.

It’s a rare piece of good news in an epidemic that completely eclipses all previous outbreaks of the virus, with of 26,724 reported cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and at least 11,065 deaths. Many more deaths have not been reported, WHO says.

Just last week, Liberia was declared Ebola-free after 42 days -– two full incubation periods –- without a reported case of Ebola. Now, Sierra Leone may be close to being able to start the same kind of countdown.

“For the first time since the beginning of the outbreak in Sierra Leone, the country reported zero confirmed cases for more than two consecutive days in the week to 10 May,” WHO said.

“For the first time since the beginning of the outbreak in Sierra Leone, the country reported zero confirmed cases for more than two consecutive days."

“As at 12 May, Sierra Leone has reported eight consecutive days without a confirmed case.” The last two known cases were a woman and her 10-year-old daughter. The mother has recovered, while the child is still being treated.

Guinea isn’t faring quite so well, WHO said, with seven cases last week. People are still conducting unsafe burials, touching the potentially highly infectious bodies of those who have died. And aid groups report people in remote areas are still often hostile to health workers trying to help. They’re having trouble finding people in contact with recent known Ebola cases.

“Taken together, key performance indicators suggest that tracking transmission chains is still challenging, and there remains a possibility of an increase in case incidence and/or geographical spread in coming weeks,” WHO said.

There’s more good news. Genetic tests show the Ebola virus hasn’t mutated quickly even if it has infected many people and had the chance to do so.

Wu-Chun Cao of the State Key Laboratory of Pathogen and Biosecurity in Beijing and colleagues took a look at a batch of samples from Ebola victims in West Africa and found that while the virus has changed slightly, it’s not any more than would be expected and the changes have not affected how deadly or transmissible it is.

WHO hopes to stop the epidemic by next month.

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