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Written by THE NEWS

Published: 25 June 2015

Despite dramatic drops in the overall numbers of reported cases, Sierra Leone and Guinea are still struggling to stop the deadly disease. Their West African neighbor Liberia was declared Ebola free in May but there are fears that the disease could resurface as Guinea and Sierra Leone continue to experience cases.

Case tallies in both countries have dipped towards zero in the past few months, only to bounce back up. Sierra Leone reported 14 new cases this week and Guinea counted 10.

In Guinea, the outbreak has spread into districts previously free of the disease in recent weeks, including the border area with Guinea Bissau.

In order to wipe out Ebola once and for all, Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma ordered the military last week to enforce new community-wide quarantines around the most recent cases.

“The curfew restrictions and the soldier activities will last for a 21-day period,” President Koroma declared on TV last week. Anyone caught violating the quarantine will be arrested, he ordered.

People aren’t allowed to leave the quarantined communities, and the government has imposed a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. The new restrictions are aimed at “ending the secret movement of cases, contacts, and dead bodies that has propagated transmission over the past two months,” the World Health Organization said.

The WHO did not declare an international public health emergency until August last year, eight months after the first Ebola case, delaying resources to the sick.

Jerome Mouton, MSF country head for Guinea, described a state of “semi-denial” about the virus similar to a year ago, adding that another major flare-up of the disease was possible.

“We are in the same situation where we are overly optimistic, saying that it is almost finished and there’s no problem but in fact it’s a big problem as there is potential for this to again set off a big epidemic,” he said.

“I think it’s going to be very difficult to actually get to zero cases and stay at zero cases in Sierra Leone and Guinea,” says Dr. Daniel Lucey, a professor of immunology at Georgetown University, who just returned from Guinea last week.

Lucey has worked as a doctor on Ebola treatment wards in both Sierra Leone and Liberia. He still sees major problems facing the Ebola eradication effort.

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