Lofa County was the epicenter of Ebola in Liberia; just four months ago almost 80 new cases were reported in a single week. In follow-up to our previous blog on improvements in Lofa County, new data indicates that Lofa should reach Day 42 this week and we are awaiting official confirmation. In order for a country to be declared free of Ebola by the World Health Organization it must go forty two days without any new cases. Day 42 is used as an indicator because it’s twice the incubation period for the illness. Counting starts from the last day a person has had contact with an infected patient. After 42 days have passed the risk of another case developing is very low.
Confirming Lofa County Ebola free will help reinvigorate the rest of Liberia as we battle this disease. While data collection and reporting has improved, clarifications are still needed about data reported during the last two weeks before celebrating Day 42 in Lofa. According to the Lofa County Ebola Treatment Unit’s (ETU) report for November 28th, the last confirmed Ebola case in the clinic was on October 24th. Based on this information Lofa County would already have passed its Day 42 Mark. However, reports from internal sources indicate that December 10th would be 40 days without any new cases. Based on this information Day 42 in Lofa should have been Today, December 12th.
The Ministry of Health’s Contact Investigation Summary (Figure 3: Left) from December 1st reports that there were 66 contacts still being visited by contact tracers last week. More information on the status of these individuals is needed to determine if they were confirmed negative for Ebola or if they have completed their 21 day follow-up without showing symptoms. It is clear more information is needed from officials before Day 42 can be declared, but we are encouraged by the data and Médecins Sans Frontières’s departure from the Lofa ETU. Their assistance downsizing the clinic and preparing it for normal operations indicates they don’t anticipate a spike in cases.
The improvements in Lofa are encouraging and we look forward to officially confirming day 42 for the county. We expect to see other Liberian counties follow suit as medical staff focus on hot spots and Liberians continue following preventative protocols. As the Ebola clinic transitions back to normal operations and as residents of Lofa begin moving forward; their success brings hope to the rest of Liberia.