A medical worker checks the temperature of a girl at a house under quarantine in Omega town, a suburb of Monrovia, on January 21, 2015. One of the child’s relatives had died of the virus. The World Health Organization’s latest numbers are that 8,688 people had died of Ebola, among a cumulative total of 21,759 cases.
The West African nation of Liberia has just five remaining confirmed cases of Ebola, a senior health official from that country said on Friday. The official also said that Liberia could be free of the virus by the end of next month, reports Reuters.
Liberia – a country founded in the early 1800s by Americans for former slaves and their descendants – was once the epicenter of Ebola, with more than 300 cases per week, according to the World Health Organization. In total, more than 8,600 people have died from the deadly disease, mostly in the countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
The significant decline in infection rates is mostly due to the swift international response and a public awareness campaign.
“We have five confirmed Ebola cases in Liberia as of today,” said Deputy Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah, who heads Liberia’s Ebola taskforce, says Reuters.
Ironically, now that the disease has reached a “turning point,” there is an experimental vaccine that is headed for Liberia next week. Alas, it will be hard to determine the vaccine’s effectiveness since the numbers of Ebola infection have declined so precipitously.
The trial is being carried out by the National Institutes of Health in the US, which will vaccinate 30,000 people. Only one-third will get the candidate vaccine; others will get a routine vaccine against another disease, such as measles. The investigators will be looking to see whether there are further cases of infection in the control group than among those who were given the potential Ebola vaccine.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chairman of global vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline, said getting to the point of shipping the vaccine, due to arrive in Liberia on Friday, was a major achievement.