Mali is officially free of the Ebola virus, government authorities and the World Health Organization announced on Sunday.
Forty-two days have passed since the country’s last potential Ebola case tested negative on December 6 2014. Ousmane Kone, Mali’s minister of health, declared the outbreak over on Sunday, but said the public should remain vigilant as the risk of Ebola in neighboring countries remains.
Mali saw its first case of Ebola in October after a two-year-old girl contracted the disease in Guinea, one of the three countries worst-hit by the virus. She began showing symptoms typical of the disease, including bleeding from the nose and shedding bodily fluids, on a 600-mile bus journey back to Mali. Afterwards, the virus spread, infecting eight people and killing six.
The end of the disease in Mali “is a historic milestone in the fight against Ebola in Mali, Africa and the world,” Dr. Ibrahima Socé Fall, head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) in Mali, said in a statement. To ensure Ebola does not return to Mali, Fall said the country’s public health systems need to be strengthened.
“Ebola is a terrible disease and continues to pose a threat to peace, security, the economy and the very existence of our society. We cannot let our guard down. The fight continues,” he said.
Ebola continues to infect and claim lives in West Africa; 8,594 have died and 21,614 have been infected with Ebola in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, according to data from the World Health Organization.
Cases do appear to be declining. On January 14 2015, Guinea reported its lowest number of weekly Ebola totals since mid-August 2014 and Sierra Leone announced a decline in new cases for the second week in a row, according to WHO. Liberia reported the lowest number of weekly cases since June 2014.