The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared Guinea Ebola-free two years after the epidemic began in the West African country.
The disease has killed 2,500 people in Guinea. The WHO considers a country Ebola-free after two 21-day incubation periods have passed since the last known case tested negative for a second time.
Guinea is expected to celebrate the announcement with fireworks. The WHO congratulated the Guinean government and people for their “extraordinary leadership in fighting the epidemic”. However, the organization also warned that vigilance would be needed to ensure the disease did not resurface.
“The coming months will be absolutely critical,” Dr. Bruce Aylward, a member of the WHO’s Ebola response team, told BBC.
“This is the period when the countries need to be sure that they are fully prepared to prevent, detect, and respond to any new cases.”
Local health workers agree with the WHO’s warnings.
“We have to be very careful, because even if open transmission has been stopped, the disease has not been totally defeated,” Alpha Seny Souhmah a Guinean health worker told the BBC.
The disease killed 100 health workers in Guinea.
According to Dr. Aylward, the WHO plans to maintain its surveillance and outbreak response teams in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia throughout 2016.
Survivors of the disease still live in fear and must contend with the stigma of the virus. The Guinean government blamed the country’s poor economic performance on the outbreak. Recently elected President Alpha Conde doubled the health budget for the country since coming into office in October.