Le We Tap Ebola!
‘Le We Tap Ebola’, Krio for ‘Let’s Stop Ebola!’ is the latest health slogan in Sierra Leone and thankfully it seems to be working.
It’s been an agonisingly long sixteen months since the Ebola virus first reached Sierra Leone’s northern border with Guinea, spreading rapidly and causing havoc to families and to the country. Waterloo had its first cases at the end of August and became an Ebola ‘hotspot’: there were about 150 cases by the middle of October, with 84 burials in one week. We lost count at the peak of the epidemic in November, when there were about 600 cases per week nationally.
Once international resources and logistics were in place, and adequate isolation facilities functioning, the epidemic diminished quickly from mid-December. Waterloo saw its last cases in April, so has been Ebola-free for almost 17 weeks, like most Districts in Sierra Leone; but this brings the risk of complacency and non-adherence to safe practices. The World Health Organisation warned that the ‘tail’ of the epidemic would be hard to manage, and so it has proved, with major outbreaks occurring in May, June and July. Now that they have adequate resources, the authorities aim to break the chain of transmission of infection by identifying patients promptly and isolating all their contacts. Even one missed contact could keep Ebola going.
The good news is that Sierra Leone has had only two cases of Ebola in the last three weeks. When there have been no new cases for 42 days, the country will be declared ‘Ebola-free’. This has happened twice in Liberia, when isolated cases emerged after 42 days but outbreaks were prevented. Experts forecast small flare-ups like this for some time to come unfortunately. But in Waterloo people’s lives are just beginning to get back to normal, hope is returning, and ‘Getting to Zero’ seems a real possibility at last, after almost exactly a year of fear and loss. With the last case was confirmed on 8th August, let us hope that Sierra Leone will be declared free from Ebola!