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A man in the Guinean capital Conakry receiving the experimental Ebola vaccine in April 2015.

Idrissa Soumaré

Ebola no longer a public health emergency

The Ebola epidemic that began ravaging three West African countries in December 2013 has come to an end.

Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, declared today that the epidemic no longer is a “public health emergency of international concern.” Chan made the announcement following advice from an emergency committee that WHO convened to discuss the Ebola epidemic. “As the experts noted during their meeting today, Ebola response capacity in West Africa is strong,” Chan said. “The three countries now have the world’s largest pool of experts in responding to Ebola.”

No new Ebola infections have been connected to the original chain of transmission in 132 days. By definition, the transmissions are said to have ended in a country when the last case has undetectable levels of Ebola virus from two blood tests. However, there have been 12 “reintroductions” of the virus, presumably because male survivors remain infectious through semen long after they have recovered. The last case was detected in Guinea on 17 March. Transmission was promptly halted in the other 11 clusters with traditional containment efforts as well as use of an experimental Ebola vaccine that had yielded excellent results in a clinical trial held in Guinea. “Further small clusters of cases can be expected,” Chan said.

In addition to ending the public health emergency, WHO urged all countries to lift trade and travel restrictions affecting Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.