22:28 GMT21 February 2020
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    Citizens of the West African country took to the streets to celebrate an announcement from the World Health Organization that their nation is now Ebola-free.

    Sierra Leoneans took the streets on Saturday to celebrate the end of the deadly Ebola epidemic, after the WHO declared the country free of the virus. Ebola left more than 3,500 people dead in the country of just over six million, and left thousands of survivors in further need of medical care and support. 

    In the capital Freetown, thousands of people gathered to celebrate the news. In August, the authorities had lifted a ban on public meetings that was imposed to halt the spread of the disease, which was first diagnosed there in May 2014. 

    Since then, the virus was confirmed to have claimed the lives of 3,589 people in the country.  An additional 366 are suspected to have probably died as a result of it. 

     More than 14,000 people there were confirmed or suspected to have contracted the virus, the transmission of which peaked in September and October of 2014. 

    The massive rise in cases was curbed by an increase in the number of treatment facilities and amount of equipment, which allowed medical professionals to work with communities to stop the chain of transmission. Measures included the prompt identification and monitoring of people who may have been in contact with someone infected with Ebola, and the safe burial of Ebola victims.  

    In this photo taken on Monday, March 2, 2015, a health care worker prepares a colleague's virus protective gear before entering a high risk zone at an Ebola virus clinic operated by the International Medical Corps in Makeni, Sierra Leone
    © AP Photo / Michael Duff
    In this photo taken on Monday, March 2, 2015, a health care worker prepares a colleague's virus protective gear before entering a high risk zone at an Ebola virus clinic operated by the International Medical Corps in Makeni, Sierra Leone

    "Since Sierra Leone recorded the first Ebola case in May 2014, a total number of 8,704 people were infected and 3,589 have died, 221 of them healthcare workers, all of whom we remember on this day" said Dr. Anders Nordström, WHO Representative in Sierra Leone.

    The WHO declared the country virus-free after 42 days, or two Ebola virus incubation cycles, had passed since the last person confirmed to have Ebola virus disease had a second negative blood test.  

    Health care workers walk past boots that were washed to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus inside a USAID, funded Ebola clinic in Monrovia, Liberia, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. The World Health Organization says officials are now focused on ending the biggest-ever Ebola outbreak rather than just slowing the virus’ spread.
    © AP Photo / Abbas Dulleh
    Health care workers walk past boots that were washed to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus inside a USAID, funded Ebola clinic in Monrovia, Liberia, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. The World Health Organization says officials are now focused on ending the biggest-ever Ebola outbreak rather than just slowing the virus’ spread.
    Until February 5, 2016, the country will be in a 90-day period of enhanced surveillance, to ensure the early detection of any new cases. Neighboring Liberia is also currently in this phase; it was declared free of transmission on September 3.

    Related:

    At Least 5 New Cases of Ebola Virus Registered in Sierra Leone - WHO
    Health Workers Rush to Vaccinate Sierra Leoneans After New Ebola Case
    Last Known Ebola Patient in Sierra Leone Discharges From Hospital
    Tags:
    Ebola virus disease (EVD), World Health Organization (WHO), Sierra Leone, Africa
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