By Gregory Anton Hartl, World Health Organization spokesperson
This Sunday, January 18, 2015, Mali’s government and the United Nations announced that there is currently no more known Ebola virus disease in the country. Over the weekend, the Government shared the outstanding news that demonstrates the progress being made in the fight against the Ebola virus. These results are further proof that Ebola can be beaten and signals the end of the outbreak in Mali. However, this does not necessarily mean the country is Ebola-free.
In short, countries must report no new cases for 42 days – or two incubation periods of 21 days – for the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a country free of known Ebola transmission. This is different than “Ebola-free” because we can’t know if the virus still exists undetected in the country, and there is also the chance that Ebola could be reintroduced.
There is a chance that a sick person hasn’t been detected yet or traveling across the border seeking health services. It’s extremely common for people from Guinea to seek health services in Mali because the transportation links are easier to from north eastern Guinea towards Mali than towards other areas of Guinea. This means Mali is not out of the woods yet. Mali’s representative noted that until all affected West African countries are free of Ebola transmission the entire region will need to continue with the same level of commitment.
Mali became the sixth West African country to record a case of Ebola when a two-year-old girl from Guinea died in October. It was close to being declared free of Ebola transmission in November before a second wave of infections hit. WHO Representative in Mali and Head of Mission UNMEER Dr. Ibrahima Fall explained, “Ebola remains a formidable disease, a threat to peace, security, the economy and the very existence of our societies. We have no right to let down our guard. The battle continues.”