The United Nations (UN)’s health agency says the Ebola epidemic that killed thousands of people in West Africa no longer constitutes an international public health emergency.
The World Health Organization (WHO) officially downgraded on Tuesday the emergency status of the epidemic, which was first declared in August 2014.
The tropical hemorrhagic virus emerged in December 2013 and has killed over 11,300 people, mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. It has infected more than 28,000 people since its outbreak.
“Ebola transmission in West Africa no longer constitutes an extraordinary event, the risk of international spread is now low, and countries currently have the capacity to respond rapidly to new virus emergencies,” WHO’s Director General Margaret Chan said at a teleconference.
Chan, however, warned that the world should still maintain “a high level of vigilance and response capacity.”
Chan also called on the countries that have restricted their interactions with the three Ebola-hit countries to “immediately lift any ban on travel and trade.”
The UN health agency also said that the three countries successfully finished a 42-day observation period as well as a 90-day surveillance period without recording any cases related to the original transmission chain.
WHO further said that it would keep hundreds of its staff in the West African countries to monitor the situation there.
The agency was initially harshly criticized for its slow response to the outbreak, as local healthcare systems were not adequately equipped to handle it.
The deadly virus causes severe fever and muscle pain, weakness, vomiting and diarrhea. The epidemic in many cases shuts down organs and leads to unstoppable internal bleeding.