Guinea and Sierra Leone each recorded single cases of Ebola in the past week, putting a year-end goal of ending the deadly epidemic within reach although risks remain, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.
“The progress is real … as of today we have two cases (in the week to August 2),” WHO Assistant-Director Bruce Aylward told a news briefing upon return from West Africa where the epidemic has killed more than 11,000 people since December 2013.
“The biggest risk now is ‘irrational exuberance’ to quote a famous economist or unrealistic expectations. There are people thinking, ‘Oh great, it’s gone from 30 to 25 to 7 to 2, it will go to 0, to 1 and 0.’ It won’t,” he said.
“The countries certainly they should be looking at stopping this in the near term. No date, but yes, this year is definitely, where numbers sit right now, a realistic and appropriate goal,” Aylward said.
Tight surveillance and tracing contacts of infected people remain crucial, and are especially challenging during the heavy rains in August, he said.
“So the vaccine will, can play an important role, but again I think we have got to manage expectations. Sometimes people run away with the idea that it’s a game changer,” Aylward said. “It’s not a changer [as] much as an enhancer. The game is still about case finding, contact tracing, rapid isolation, safe burials. That is how you stop Ebola.”
In the previous week to July 26, there were seven confirmed cases in the two countries, which had been the lowest in the past year, according to the WHO.