Senegal Declared Free Of Ebola

Following in the footsteps of Nigeria, Senegal is the latest nation in Africa to beat back the spread of Ebola from the “hot zone” countries in the western part of the continent:

GENEVA — The World Health Organization declared the West African nation of Senegal to be free of Ebola on Friday, a rare success in dealing with a deadly virus that has rampaged uncontrolled in neighboring countries and prompted alarm around the world.

Senegal’s achievement came as the health organization was reported to have internally acknowledged its own stark failure to arrest the disease months ago. The internal document reportedly went far beyond the self-criticism that organization officials have expressed publicly about their response.

The W.H.O. announcement on Senegal officially concluded a monitoring period of 42 days, twice the maximum incubation period for the virus, in which no new infections were found. The last recorded case in the country was a young man who was entering by road from Guinea; he recovered and returned to Guinea last week, the organization announced.

In what would be another conspicuous success, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, appeared close on Friday to declaring itself free of Ebola as well. The country would reach the 42-day milestone on Monday, after an outbreak that infected 20 people and resulted in eight deaths.

Senegal’s proximity to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three countries at the heart of the epidemic, “makes the country still vulnerable to additional imported cases,” the organization said.

More than 4,500 people have died from Ebola and more than 9,200 have been infected in the current outbreak, according to the latest W.H.O. tallyposted Friday on its website. The number of cases is still doubling every month.

Still, Senegal’s success in isolating the infection sets an example of good practice at a moment when the organization is trying to strengthen the readiness of 15 other countries in Africa to deal with arriving travelers who are infected with the disease.

This is the kind of positive development that needs to be seen in the fight against this outbreak. In addition to fighting the outbreak in nations like Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, it’s essential that authorities prevent it from spreading elsewhere in Africa from where it could spread to other parts of the world, which means not only the United States and Europe but also areas such as India, China, and South America where weaker medical infrastructure might make it easier for the disease to spread out of control.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    I’m not sure whether we should be hailing Senegal’s accomplishment or not. One of the measures they used was closing their borders with the countries affected by Ebola very effectively.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    So you’re joining those who say we should close our border with Texas? I’m reluctant, but, well, okay. But not during South by Southwest.

  3. Slugger says:

    Good going, Senegal. This is the best news from there since June 2002. I was riding in a cab in DC with a Senegalese driver then, and Senegal had just beaten France in a world cup match. His joy was bubbling over, “They are dancing in the streets in Dakar today!”

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    @michael reynolds:

    In my view whether we should close the border with Texas is independent of Ebola.

    As far as controlling the movement of people from West Africa to the United States,. I think that some intermediary step between taking the temperatures of people getting onto planes and banning travel to/from West Africa is probably called for. Taking temperatures is theater. It’s too easily countered and unevenly performed.

    Mostly, I think we need to be providing more vigorous assistance, possibly including moving one of our two remaining hospital ships off the coast of West Africa. The most important thing we could do is whatever we can to help quell the outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea while it’s mostly limited to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

  5. al-Ameda says:

    By the standards of the region Senegal is a stable reasonably well governed nation, something that cannot be said of its Ebola stricken neighbors of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea. It does not surprise me that Senegal seems to have the resources and wherewithal to handle the Ebola problem.

    Americans need to understand that Africa is not a monolith,, it is not all the same.

  6. Gustopher says:

    @Dave Schuler: since Senegal actually shares borders with Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, closing the borders is simultaneously more doable and more likely to be affected. And, there is a lot more travel between the neighboring countries.

    Since all travel between West Africa and the US is indirect, we would have to close our borders to everyone to be sure we aren’t getting that nice Belgian fellow who sat next to the Ebola victim on a flight, etc. Or, we could send troops to Africa and forcibly close their borders.

    If this spread like the flu, and was raging out of control, I would support those measures, so I completely understand where the terrified over reactors are coming from.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    I’ll admit to not being fond of the idea of my internal organs liquefying, but with the death rate remaining as always at 100% I’m not excited by my other more likely ends, either. A lot of us reading this will end up shot full of morphine and praying for death, I certainly expect to. (He says, taking another drag on his cigar.)

    As a practical matter we would have to (as @Gustopher says) refuse passage to anyone who originated in the affected countries, regardless of origin. But where do we draw the line? If there are a dozen cases in France do we stop Frenchmen coming in?

    I don’t dismiss the idea, but despite early screw-ups, our system is up to the challenge of coping with the occasional ebola-positive passenger, unless this thing gets wildly out of control in Europe as well, which remains highly unlikely. As best I recall we remain at three cases in this country, so I think we are a long way from needing to do anything more drastic. We could set a precedent that might require us to shut down virtually all air travel into and out of the US.

  8. Andre Kenji says:

    If the matter is disease, sorry, then no one will enter the US. There are many tropical diseases that can be more dangerous than Ebola, there are dozens of varieties of flu.