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WHO declares Guinea free of Ebola virus

Two years after the outbreak began, Guinea has been declared free of Ebola virus transmission, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced Tuesday.

WHO praised the West African country's government and society on Tuesday for its "extraordinary leadership in fighting the epidemic," adding that this acts as an "important milestone" for West Africa when it comes to tackling Ebola.

Medical workers present Noubia, the last known patient to contract Ebola in Guinea, during her release from a Doctors Without Borders treatment center in Conakry (November 28, 2015).
Cellou Binani | AFP | Getty Images
Medical workers present Noubia, the last known patient to contract Ebola in Guinea, during her release from a Doctors Without Borders treatment center in Conakry (November 28, 2015).

Since the epidemic began, there have been over 3,800 cases in Guinea, with the virus claiming more than 2,500 lives in the country. Over 28,600 cases of Ebola have been reported globally, according to WHO figures, with many residing in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

The announcement comes 42 days after the last individual in Guinea confirmed with Ebola was tested negative for the second consecutive time.

While the first signs of the disease originated in 1976, the first cases from the current outbreak in West Africa were initially notified in March 2014, with WHO saying signs of the epidemic date back to a case in late December 2013.

In the two years, the three African nations have been the worst hit, however, it has spread by land and air travel to other countries and around 11,300 deaths have been reported worldwide.


"This is the first time that all three countries—Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone—have stopped the original chains of transmission that were responsible for starting this devastating outbreak two years ago," Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's regional director for Africa said in a statement.

"I commend the governments, communities and partners for their determination in confronting this epidemic to get to this milestone. As we work towards building resilient health care systems, we need to stay vigilant to ensure that we rapidly stop any new flares that may come up in 2016."

Sierra Leone is currently in its 90-day period of enhanced observation, which if successful, should finish on February 5, 2016. Despite having previously been declared Ebola free, Liberia is now under closer watch, after a survivor became infectious again.

The next few months will be "absolutely critical" in making sure countries are ready to detect and respond to any new cases of the illness, according to WHO's special representative of the director-general for the Ebola response, Dr Bruce Aylward.

WHO will continue to monitor and support Guinea, it said, as it enters the next stage of heightened surveillance, while continuing to monitor Liberia and Sierra Leone. The UN agency is currently liaising with its partners and the three governments, to make sure survivors are properly screened and looked after.

For the countries to maintain a successful recovery, each will have to concentrate on reinforcing and strengthening their public health programs, while swiftly acting on any Ebola "flare-up" they come across.

By CNBC's Alexandra Gibbs, follow her @AlexGibbsy and @CNBCi