The World Health Organization last Friday officially declared Senegal Ebola free. This development follows 42 days of passing without any new cases of the deadly virus in the West African country.
But this does not mean the country is not out of danger, given its location in Ebola-hit West Africa and proximity to the worst-hit countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
In a statement, WHO commends Senegal on its diligence to end the transmission of the virus.
Senegal’s only confirmed Ebola case was a student who travelled by road from neighbouring Guinea. The student crossed the border just before it was closed on August 21.
The man, who had had contact with an Ebola patient in Guinea, was confirmed as having the highly contagious and deadly disease on 29 August.
Thanks to rapid care, he recovered by September 5th, and returned to Guinea two weeks later.
But Senegal could not be declared officially Ebola-free until two full 21-day incubation periods of the disease had elapsed.
“Senegal’s response is a good example of what to do when faced with an imported case of Ebola,” WHO said. The UN agency lauded the Senegalese government for having “reacted quickly to stop the disease from spreading”.
Senegal’s response plan included identifying and monitoring 74 close contacts of the patient, prompt testing of all suspected cases, stepped-up surveillance at border posts and nationwide public awareness campaigns.
WHO also dispatched a team of epidemiologists to work alongside health ministry workers, doctors from Doctors Without Borders and the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Senegal has maintained a high level of active ‘case finding’ for 42 days – twice the maximum incubation period of Ebola virus disease – to detect possible unreported cases of infection.”
WHO however said Senegal’s geographical position makes the country vulnerable to additional imported cases of Ebola virus disease. It therefore urged the country to remain vigilant for any suspected cases by strict compliance with WHO guidelines.