The Ebola outbreak has continued in West Africa for  nearly a year since the World Health Organization declared it a "public health emergency of international concern." Photo by APHA/The Nation's Health

The Ebola outbreak has continued in West Africa for nearly a year since the World Health Organization declared it a “public health emergency of international concern.” Photo by APHA/The Nation’s Health

A year ago, the World Health Organization declared that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa met the definition of a “public health emergency of international concern.” Today, control of the disease remains a critical priority.

“After a year of handling far too many severely ill patients, the surviving staff need support, better protection, compensation, and reinforcements,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, in a statement. “The existing facilities need a complete overhaul, and many new structures need to be built. If another outbreak strikes, the toll would be far worse.”

On Sept. 30 the first laboratory-confirmed case of Ebola in the U.S. was announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The patient, who traveled from Liberia to Dallas, passed away on Oct. 8. Two health care workers at Texas Presbyterian Hospital who provided care for the patient also tested positive for Ebola.

But while no Ebola case in the U.S. has been reported since Oct. 24 the outbreak continues to affect three West Africa countries: Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

According to a WHO Situation Report, 26 confirmed cases of Ebola were reported earlier in July, all of them in Guinea and Sierra Leone. These cases were the highest number since the start of the outbreak, according to CDC.

Only a small number of cases have been confirmed in Liberia since the start of the outbreak, which began in late June beginning with a 17-year-old male, spreading to five others who came in contact with him, according to the CDC. There are currently more than 50 people being monitored who came in contact with the infected male.

“Until we get to zero cases,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in January, “we won’t get to zero risk in West Africa or here.”

There are currently no vaccines to protect against Ebola, according to WHO, but there are clinical trials taking place in Guinea and Sierra Leone, some of which have “been shown to be safe and well tolerated in humans.”

For more information, visit APHA’s page on Ebola.