Adama Sankoh, an Ebola survivor, was released from the Makheni Ebola treatment unit on Aug. 24, 2015, Sierra Leone. Photo courtesy of WHO/M. Harris
Sierra Leone celebrated an important milestone on Aug. 24, 2015. For the first time in more than a year, there are no people being treated for Ebola virus disease and no confirmed cases of Ebola in the country.
Surrounded by singing, dancing and clapping healthcare workers, Adama Sankoh, a palm oil trader, was released from the Makheni Ebola treatment unit. In the ceremony held to mark the final Ebola case, the president of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, described Sankoh's release as "the beginning of the end of Ebola."
“Ebola nor don yaet” (Ebola is not yet finished) the president told Sankoh as he handed her a certificate confirming that she was now negative for Ebola virus. He asked Sankoh to remind her friends and family to call the Ebola hotline immediately if anyone in their community develops symptoms of Ebola or dies at home.
Sankoh told the gathering of healthcare workers, Ebola survivors, leaders of national and district Ebola response teams and representatives of the agencies working to fight Ebola that she had learned about the disease the hard way. Now, she said, she knows that safe burial and thorough handwashing is essential for protecting against Ebola virus disease.
While the mood was celebratory, Koroma reminded the gathering that Ebola transmission would not be considered ended in Sierra Leone "until the WHO declares we have gone 42 days with no case." The 42-day period begins on Aug. 25.
Even then, said Koroma, Ebola could not be considered over until every country in the sub-region made up of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone had gone 42 days with no case after the last confirmed case had been discharged from treatment or, if they had died, safely buried.
Dr. Anders Nordström, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Sierra Leone, says, "This is an important milestone for Sierra Leone. But the hard work that got Sierra Leone to this point has to continue. Surveillance, searching for cases, notifying any deaths in the community, testing anyone with Ebola symptoms, all must continue intensively. And the community involvement that has led us to this point must continue as well."