Nearly two years later, Sierra Leone declared Ebola-free

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Sierra Leone had 14,000 documented Ebola cases

A new Ebola case was reported this week in Guinea, the WHO says

CNN  — 

After 1½ years and more than 14,000 cases, Sierra Leone is finally free of Ebola.

The World Health Organization made the announcement Friday, marking the fact that two Ebola virus incubation cycles have passed since the last person confirmed to have the disease had a second negative blood test.

Months have gone by since the outbreak peaked last year, when patients were dying by thousands. Nonetheless, Saturday marks a major milestone in the Ebola fight, though the challenge is making sure that the good news continues.

“We now have a unique opportunity to support Sierra Leone to build a strong and resilient public health system ready to detect and respond to the next outbreak of the disease or any other public health threat,” said Dr. Anders Nordstrom, WHO’s representative in Sierra Leone.

According to Nordstrom’s organization, Sierra Leone had about half of the 28,000 documented Ebola cases tied to the recent outbreak. Some 4,000 people in the West African nation died as a result, tearing apart many families.

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Thousands of survivors still have ongoing health problems, the WHO notes. It credited Sierra Leone’s work with international partners for helping curtail the impact. The outbreak’s epicenter was in West Africa, making the declaration crucial in helping ensure the virus does not make a comeback.

Ebola was declared dead in May in Liberia, for instance, only for it to resurface. WHO once again determined that country was free of the disease in September.

The effects of the Ebola virus linger on. Scottish nurse Pauline Cafferkey got better, then came down with the virus again, but improved last month at a London hospital.

And Guinea, which borders Sierra Leone, reported a new case this week, according to the WHO. It involves a child born to a 25-year-old woman who has Ebola. She is undergoing treatment at a center in Conakry.