WHO on Feb. 4 reported the first weekly increase of 2015 in Ebola cases in the three West African countries most affected by the outbreak. WHO said that in the last week of January there were a combined 124 cases reported in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia.
We now have a time-limited window of opportunity to eliminate the virus, by April or May the rains will set in in West Africa, limiting our access and our ability to find cases and trace their contacts.
– Dr. Peter Salama UNICEF global Ebola emergency coordinator
Health officials warned in late January that cases continue to be underreported, with flare-ups in communities that are resistant to response measures. The Red Cross, which has deployed 6,000 volunteers in West Africa, said access and community cooperation remains a challenge.
Ebola has orphaned more than 12,000 children in Sierra Leone, according to the Ebola Orphan Report released March 4 by the British charity Street Child. The charity conducted a survey in all 14 districts of Sierra Leone between Jan. 13 and Jan. 27. The average age of orphans is nine years old.
Sierra Leone Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana voluntarily quarantined himself for 21 days on Feb. 28 after one of his security guards died of Ebola. Sam-Sumana is showing no symptoms, but his staff will be placed under observation as a cautionary measure. Sam-Sumana became acting president March 1 while the president attends an EU Ebola conference.
Food deliveries are not reaching everyone in Sierra Leone, forcing thousands to break quarantine in search of sustenance, aid groups said in Nov. 2014. Some who leave their homes are being monitored and could spread the disease. The government and the UN's World Food Programme are responsible for food deliveries.
A study released in Dec. 2014 said researchers who visited the village of deceased "patient zero" found evidence that insect-eating bats that lived in a tree in the village may have been the transmission point of the outbreak into the human population.
Investigating the zoonotic origin of the West African Ebola epidemic | EMBO Mol Med
Ebola, which has no vaccine, kills between 25% and 90% of people who contract it, depending on the strain. It is transmitted via unprotected contact with the bodily fluids of symptomatic people or corpses. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting and bleeding. Eight outbreaks have occurred since the virus was discovered in 1976.
Guinea confirms Ebola as source of deadly epidemic
The last person in Liberia diagnosed with Ebola, Beatrice Yardolo, was released from a Chinese-run Ebola treatment center. The 58-year-old teacher told the AP she was "one of the happiest persons on Earth today." The country will be declared Ebola-free if no new cases appear for 42 days.