March 5, 2015 / 4:05 PM / 5 years ago

Liberia releases last known Ebola patient from care

MONROVIA (Reuters) - Liberia’s last Ebola patient left hospital on Thursday to cheers of delight from friends and family, a year after the West African country reported its first case.

Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, was once at the heart of an epidemic that has killed nearly 10,000 across West Africa. Liberia has reported no new Ebola cases in 13 days, but can be deemed Ebola-free only after 42 days have passed — double the normal incubation period for the virus.

Dressed in a bright orange T-shirt and multi-colored beads, a joyous Beatrice Yardolo greeted a small crowd outside the Chinese Ebola treatment center in the Paynesville suburb of Monrovia, where she was hospitalized for two weeks.

Chinese healthcare workers took turns to congratulate her, offering a bouquet of red flowers, a toy panda and a survivor’s certificate, as soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) looked on.

“I am very grateful to the Chinese treatment center and the Almighty God that I lived to see this day. I did not know I would make it,” said Yardolo, who comes from the St. Paul’s Bridge suburb, which has since January been one of Liberia’s last remaining hot spots.

NEED FOR VIGILANCE

Yardolo has lost three children to the hemorrhagic fever. Ebola spreads through bodily fluids like saliva and vomit and her family is thought to have been infected by a son who caught it while working as a dental hygienist.

“It makes me feel happy. It makes me feel like our country is coming to the end of a very horrible period,” said her son Joel Yardolo.

“Today signifies a very great day for our country. When the news was bad, we reported it. We stand here today to signify good news,” said Tolbert Nyenswah, head of Liberia’s Ebola response.

However, Nyenswah called on Liberians to observe strict measures to eradicate the disease, adding more than 100 Ebola contacts were still under surveillance.

Health officials say a lack of compliance with guidelines has created additional contacts in recent weeks.

In one instance, a woman was sent away from a clinic even though she was Ebola positive. In another, a policewoman with the disease helped her son skip quarantine, a Western health official in Liberia said.

Since the epidemic was first discovered a year ago, the rate of infection has sometimes ebbed only to flare up again more fiercely. Neighboring Sierra Leone appeared to be controlling the outbreak in Freetown until fishermen carried the virus back, causing a spike in cases.

The World Health Organization said Guinea and Sierra Leone reported a total of 132 new cases in the week to March 1, an increase of 34 over the previous week.

Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Ralph Boulton, Larry King

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