Mar 23, 2015 08:00 PM EDT
Exactly one year ago today, on March 23, 2014, the World Health Organization announced there was an Ebola outbreak in Guinea. At that point, there were 49 cases of Ebola that had resulted in the deaths of 29 people from the disease. Since the outbreak, Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. But, the United Nations now believes that the Ebola outbreak could be gone by the end of August.
Since the outbreak, the spread of the disease exploded and then began to slow, but it is still not finished in West Africa. But Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the head of the United Nations' Ebola mission, believes the outbreak could be gone by the end of August. Cheikh says that the initial efforts of the U.N. were slowed due to both "arrogance" and a "lack of knowledge," but believes they have learned valuable lessons from these mistakes.
"We have been running away from giving any specific date, but I am pretty sure myself that it will be gone by the summer," he says.
This prediction follows the disappointing news that Liberia has discovered a new case of the disease, ending its streak of no new cases that began on March 5. Officials are still unsure how this latest patient developed the virus. The World Health Organization requires 42 days or twice the incubation period of the virus before it will declare a country free of it.
Still, the fact that Liberia was able to go so long without a new case demonstrates the success of the sustained efforts in fighting the disease. Currently, Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 4,200 people in Liberia.
Although western countries such as the United States had several cases of Ebola from the epidemic, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone bore the worst of it and it has yet to release West Africa. In Sierra Leone, President Ernest Bai Koroma said he planned to slow the transmission of the virus with a series of lockdowns in April.
This isn't the first time countries have tried lockdowns and in many ways they remain controversial. While the government maintains they are necessary to stop the spread of the virus groups such as Doctors Without Borders have questioned their effectiveness.
On Monday, Doctors Without Borders released a report to mark the anniversary of the outbreak. "The world at first ignored the calls for help and then belatedly decided to act," the report reads. "Meanwhile, months were wasted and lives were lost."
The group has noted that the death toll is largely unknown, because because "the resulting collapse of health services means that untreated malaria, complicated deliveries and car crashes will have multiplied the direct Ebola deaths many times over."
The report also accuses the governments of Sierra Leone and Guinea of being "initially very reluctant to recognize the severity of the outbreak," which had the effect of obstructing some early efforts to fight the outbreak. However, that initial reluctance is "far from unusual in outbreaks of Ebola - or indeed other dangerous infectious diseases," the report says. "There is often little appetite to immediately sound the alarm for fear of causing public panic."
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