(Telegraph) – Liberia released its last current Ebola patient from hospital on Thursday, marking the West African nation’s unexpected transition from critical-list patient to international poster boy for disease control. When the outbreak first started spiralling out of control last summer, it was there that aid agencies feared the worst – the virus having devastated a health system that was still recovering from a 14-year-civil war.
Now, to everyone’s relief – and surprise – the nation of four million has confounded the apocalyptic predictions of deaths running into hundreds of thousands, and of the possible collapse of the Liberian government itself. Its network of hastily-built Ebola clinics now lie largely empty, and the 3,000-strong force of US troops who pitched up there back in October are in the process of packing up and going home.
So is it time for the world’s aid agencies to relax, and congratulate themselves on a job well done?
No, is their basic answer. For one thing, the absence of any documented new cases in Liberia does not mean that other cases aren’t out there unreported. And for another, Ebola is still prevalent in neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone, where new cases are still emerging all the time, albeit at rates much reduced from last year.