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Sierra Leone's Last Ebola Patient Released, But Nation Not Yet 'Ebola-Free'

Adama Sankoh, 40 (center), who contracted Ebola after her son died from the disease late last month, stands with health officials the moment after she was discharge from Mateneh Ebola treatment center outskirt of Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Alie Turay

Sierra Leone's last known Ebola patient, Adama Sankoh, has left the hospital, dancing down a red carpet, with the president of the country cheering her on.

"It was like she was a rock star. There were at least 100 people there — politicians, press — everyone wanting a photograph of her," said a spokesman for the (IMC) in Makeni.

Sankoh must test negative for 42 days, before the World Health Organization will declare Sierra Leone virus-free.

"It's been a very exciting day, people were really celebrating. This is a very important step towards ending the epidemic here in Sierra Leone," Andres Nordstrom, who heads the country's WHO operations, tells NPR.

The Associated Press reports that the woman who was discharged Monday thanked all who helped care for her while she was hospitalized.

"President Ernest Bai Koroma presented a certificate of discharge to Adama Sankoh, 40, who contracted Ebola after her son died from the disease late last month.

"The Ebola fight is not yet over — go and tell members of your community that," the president said when presenting the certificate to the woman. "Go back to your community and continue to live life as you used to."

Nordstrom tells NPR that people were dancing and singing in the country with the news of the last Ebola patient being released from the hospital. He says while this is an important milestone, this is "just beginning of the journey."

"Of course the work is continuing just as intensive to ensure that we are acting on all alerts in the country," Nordstrom says. "The risk is definitely not over. So we need now to continue to work to engage people, the communities, active surveillance to make sure that that whatever is potentially coming out we will then be able to contain rapidly."

NPR previously reported that the country of 6 million recorded more than 13,000 of the nearly 28,000 total cases. More than 4,000 Sierra Leoneans have died from the virus.

WHO declared Libera "free of Ebola virus transmission" in May, calling it at the time a "monumental achievement" for the country that saw the highest death toll from the outbreak, which first occurred in August and September of last year. Guinea remains the only western Africa nation still battling the virus.

Nordstrom says he learned of a new confirmed Ebola case in Guinea over the weekend.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.
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