West Africa’s Ebola outbreak is not fully over, but the situation no longer constitutes an international health emergency, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.
The agency’s director general, Dr. Margaret Chan, said the panel of outside experts that advises her on Ebola — the so-called Emergency Committee — has recommended that the outbreak no longer constitute a public health emergency of international concern.
Chan said she accepted the advice, a decision that attempts to draw a line under the worst Ebola outbreak the world has ever seen. More than 28,639 people — a previously unthinkable number — were infected and more than 11,316 of them died.
Despite the decision, one of the three countries at the heart of the outbreak, Guinea, is still in a state of high alert because of a recent cluster of five confirmed cases and three probable cases.
Chan said such flare-ups of cases will persist, given the number of survivors in West Africa. Evidence now suggests some men who have survived Ebola can emit the virus in their semen for over a year.
Professor Robert Steffen, vice chair of the Emergency Committee, said all the original chains of transmission in the original outbreak have now been cut.
The outbreak is believed to have begun in Guinea in December 2013. The outbreak was announced in March 2014 but was only declared a public health emergency of international concern by the WHO in August 2014.