Ebola Epidemic Is Officially Over

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Ebola in Liberia
These days are hopefully over for good.Photo: AHMED JALLANZO/© Corbis. All Rights Reserved.

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa lasted two years and killed more than 11,000 people. But now the three countries at the epicenter of the disease — Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia — have gotten the all-clear from the World Health Organization after no new infections have cropped up since November. In other words, Ebola’s over, baby!

Well … almost. The WHO cautioned that, though there are zero cases at present, “the job is not over, more flare-ups are expected and that strong surveillance and response systems will be critical in the months to come.” The incubation period of the virus is 21 days, and none of the countries have had a new infection in almost double that time. But the virus can live inside some bodily fluids, specifically sperm, for months and months after someone recovers from Ebola, which means the threat of infection still lingers.

There is also no approved vaccine available for the disease just yet, though some late-stage trials are showing huge promise. But Vladimir Putin declared Wednesday, on the eve of the WHO’s big announcement, that Russia had developed the most effective Ebola treatment, “higher than those drugs which until now have been used in the world.” Believe it or not, people are pretty skeptical — though they’re giving Russia’s claims more credence than Kim Jong-un’s announcement of a “miracle vaccine” for Ebola, HIV, and pretty much every deadly disease ever. 

Still, the WHO’s good news doesn’t overshadow the devastation the Ebola epidemic wrought: In addition to the more than 11,000 dead, more than 28,500 were sickened by the disease. Families were torn apart, and approximately 8,000 kids lost a parent or were left orphaned. The virus dealt deep blows to the regional economy, from which it’s still struggling to recover. 

And despite the panic and freak-outs every time someone coughed on an airplane, the United States only saw four Ebola cases and one death — that of a Dallas man who traveled to Liberia and contracted the disease. And, as previously reported, New York’s very own “Ebola doctor,” Craig Spencer, is feeling fine.

Update: The World Health Organization totally jinxed it. Not even 24-hours after the WHO declared West Africa’s Ebola epidemic over, a new patient was diagnosed with the virus in Sierra Leone. This is the first Ebola case in the country since November of last year. The WHO did warn that small flare-ups were likely because the virus can linger in some bodily fluids months after a survivor recovers.