Guinea has been declared free of Ebola by the World Health Organization (WHO), two years after the epidemic began there. Guineans are expected to celebrate the landmark with concerts and fireworks. The disease killed more than 2,500 people in the country and a further 9,000 in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Sierra Leone was declared free of Ebola in November, but new cases have emerged in Liberia, which had been declared Ebola-free in September.
"It's the best year-end present that God could give to Guinea, and the best news that Guineans could hope for," Ebola survivor Alama Kambou Dore told AFP news agency. Local health workers echoed a warning from medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres that vigilance was still vital despite the mood of celebration. "We have to be very careful, because even if open transmission has been stopped, the disease has not been totally defeated," said Alpha Seny Souhmah, a Guinean health worker and Ebola survivor. According to the UN, 6,220 Guinean children have lost one or both parents to Ebola. More than 100 health workers also lost their lives in the fight against the disease.
Many survivors still live in fear of the stigma and long-term side effects associated with the virus. The government in Guinea has blamed the virus for poor economic performance and says it has also caused people to distrust the country's health services. President Alpha Conde has doubled the health budget since winning re-election in October. A country is considered free of human-to-human transmission once two 21-day incubation periods have passed since the last known case tested negative for a second time.