The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has begun to lessen in severity, according to new figures released by the WHO.
The figures showed that as of 15 April, the outbreak, which started in December 2013, had claimed 10689 lives, out of a total of 25,791 confirmed cases. Liberia, one of the hardest hit of the nations affected by Ebola, has not had confirmed cases in 21 days, and has been declared an Ebola free zone. Sierra Leone remains the most heavily affected nation, with 12,201 cases, and 3857 deaths.
The WHO has also announced plans to strengthen nearby nations' defenses against the disease. These include a program to create longer term, staff levels being increased in affected countries to coordinate preparedness activities, while WHO Ebola preparedness Officers are currently deployed to Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, The Gambia, and Ethiopia, and there will be deployments to Benin, Mauritania, Senegal, and Togo in the near future. The organisation has also stressed that Ebola has created an environment where more common viruses such as measles can thrive.
Dr Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, the director of immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals at the WHO, said: 'We are calling for the intensification of routine immunization services in all areas, and for mass measles vaccination campaigns in areas that are free of Ebola transmission.'
The WHO has also released a report into the international response to the Ebola outbreak. It calls on world leaders to take threats such as Ebola and similarly dangerous diseases seriously, help re-establish the services, systems and infrastructure which have been devastated in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in Ebola, and to focus on prevention of another major outbreak of the disease.
Ebola survivors have also been found to face further health issues such as eye and joint problems according to the WHO. Some patients have reported problems with their vision, joints and on-going fatigue. Very little is known about the long-term effects of Ebola.
A recent case of Ebola was also thought to have been transmitted through sexual contact, prompting WHO scientists to consider whether it would be worth offering screening to check if the virus is still present in semen in male survivors 90 days after they have been considered Ebola free. Current WHO advice says survivors should abstain or practice safe sex for at least three months following recovery.