One week, two headlines: Liberia has no new cases but in Sierra Leone, a British citizen tests positive

Ebola is back in the headlines this week with two powerful stories bearing important messages: one celebrating the last case of Ebola in Liberia and the other article of a UK military health worker testing positive for Ebola in Sierra Leone – a country where new cases are still emerging every day.

News broke on 5th March, 2015 that Liberia had released its last Ebola patient and that the country had no new cases of the virus in over a week. It was the first time since May of 2014 that Liberia had no new cases of the Ebola virus that has killed nearly 10,000 people in Liberia and neighbouring Sierra Leone and Guinea. Per the World Health Organisation (WHO) protocol, Liberia must have no new Ebola cases for 42 days in order to be officially declared Ebola-free.

Despite this bout of good news from West Africa, the next big headline this week reports the sad news that a female British military healthcare worker in Sierra Leone has tested positive for Ebola. She received initial care at the Kerry Town treatment unit in Sierra Leone until she was flown home for treatment in an isolation unit at the London Royal Free Hospital.

As you’ll recall, two other British citizens, nurses Will Pooley and Pauline Cafferkey, were both infected with Ebola while working in West Africa but made full recoveries after being treated back home in the UK, also at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

The news of this latest infection to a British citizen – and the fact that 81 new cases were recorded in Sierra Leone in the past week – reminds us all that this disease may not be consistent breaking news anymore, but that it is still an outbreak that devastates an entire region and the many brave nurses and military workers – both local and international – that fight to contain its spread.

While Liberia may be on the track to being Ebola-free within the next month, it’s important to recognise the geographic proximity of the three affected countries. Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone have free-flowing travel and many individuals continue to cross in and out of each country. Until all three countries are declared Ebola-free, there is an on-going risk that the virus could re-enter one of the countries through cross-border travel.

Our team here at Bread and Water for Africa UK continues to offer our heartfelt condolences for victims of Ebola and the many families affected by the virus. Our own field efforts in Sierra Leone include food distribution programmes to families affected by the economic shutdown and the country-wide or district-wide quarantines that prevent families from leaving their homes for a given period of time.

Thanks to the generosity of our UK supporters, our newest partners at Glocal Forum Yala Africa in Freetown, Sierra Leone are providing food and basic supplies to the local families and monitoring whether this support helps families and communities comply with the quarantine measures, and thus reduce the spread of Ebola even further.