The Ebola outbreak in western Africa that began two years ago has been declared over by the World Health Organization after claiming 11,300 lives.
"While this is an important milestone and a very important step forward, we have to say that the job is still not done," said Rick Brennan, WHO director of emergency risk assessment and humanitarian response, at a news conference in Geneva, The Associated Press reported
. "That's because there is still ongoing risk of re-emergence of the disease because of persistence of the virus in a proportion of survivors."
Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia were the hardest hit, and the ministry of health in the latter country is still conducting Ebola tests on dead bodies before burial.
"We could have a recurrence if we don't do those things that we need to do," said Follay Gallah, an ambulance driver who contracted the disease in 2014.
A country can be declared Ebola-free once two disease incubation periods — 21 days each — have passed with no new cases. Thursday was the 42-day benchmark for Liberia. Sierra Leone was declared Ebola-free on Nov. 7 and Guinea on Dec. 29.
Liberia was previously declared Ebola-free in May, but the virus soon flared up twice more.
In October of 2014, a Liberian man who had traveled to the US died in Texas of the disease, where two nurses were also infected but ultimately survived.
Globally, the disease sickened nearly 29,000 people, USA Today reported
. Many who survived have lingering symptoms, such as vision problems or joint point.
While there is no Ebola vaccine, during the height of the epidemic some experimental treatments were deployed.
"Detecting and breaking every chain of transmission has been a monumental achievement," said Margaret Chan, WHO's director-general.
"So much was needed and so much was accomplished by national authorities, heroic health workers, civil society, local and international organizations, and generous partners."
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