The 2014 Ebola outbreak has finally come to an end in Sierra Leone. On Monday, the last Ebola patient was discharged from the Makheni Ebola treatment unit, and the country will officially be considered Ebola-free if no new cases pop up in the next 40 days. Adama Sankoh was released with a festive ceremony, and a video captured her excitement as she danced out of the treatment center. Sankoh's enthusiasm represents how a lot of people are feeling, now that the small West African country has zero Ebola patients, after a long struggle with the disease. According to Al Jazeera, crowds were dancing in the streets, beating drums, honking car horns, and playing the national anthem on Monday to celebrate the good news.
Sankoh, whose 23-year-old son died of Ebola, thanked her doctors and nurses, and vowed to be the last person in Sierra Leone to contract the disease. As she left the hospital, she said, "Although my child died of Ebola, I am very happy that I have survived today," and that she would now be the "number-one messenger to sensitize people that although Ebola is on the run, vigilance should be the watchword."
Sankoh's release comes 15 months after the Ebola outbreak was first declared in Sierra Leone. In that time, more than 13,000 people were likely infected in the country, and nearly 4,000 died. Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma gave Sankoh a certificate of discharge when she left the treatment center, but he was cautious of celebrating too soon, saying: "The Ebola fight is not yet over — go and tell members of your community that. Go back to your community and continue to live life as you used to."
Sierra Leone and Liberia must both go a few weeks without any infections before being declared Ebola-free. Neighboring Guinea still has people contracting the disease, with three new infections reported last week. OB Sisay, director of the situation room at Sierra Leone's National Ebola Response Center, told the BBC: "We are very worried [about Guinea]. We are fervently hoping that our cousins there will make the same progress as we have ... Guinea's problem is our problem."
Although Ebola isn't entirely eradicated yet, Sierra Leone releasing its last infected patient is a very encouraging sign. Hopefully, the country can have another dance celebration in 40 days, when there are still zero people infected and it's officially deemed Ebola-free.