- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 17, 2016

The World Health Organization on Thursday said Sierra Leone is Ebola-free once again, after a mid-January flareup spoiled West Africa’s efforts to stamp out the two-year outbreak that killed more than 11,000 people.

“Today marks another milestone in the country’s effort to defeat Ebola,” the agency said in a statement. “WHO commends Sierra Leone’s government, partners and people on the effective and swift response to this latest outbreak.”

Sierra Leone had been deemed Ebola-free on Nov. 7, but it reported a new case on Jan. 15 — just one day after the WHO declared an end to the Ebola outbreak that devastated West Africa from December 2013 to late 2015.

Health officials clear a country if 42 days, or two of Ebola’s 21-day incubation periods, pass since the last known patient tests negative for the virus.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell pointed to Sierra Leone’s relapse while pleading with Congress last month for $1.9 billion in emergency funding to combat the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease that’s been linked to serious birth defects in Latin America.

Congressional Republicans want the administration to use leftover Ebola funds first, but the administration says flare-ups in West Africa prove that fight isn’t over, so new money is required.

Sierra Leone isn’t the only country that’s been haunted by flare-ups in the Ebola fight.

WHO’s been forced to clear neighboring Liberia of the virus three times — most recently on Jan. 14, when the agency thought they’d finally beaten the virus.

Guinea, where the outbreak began in December 2013, was cleared on Dec. 29 and hopes to remain Ebola-free through March 27, when its 90-day period of heightened surveillance ends.

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