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Liberia releases last Ebola patient

Liberia has released its last Ebola patient from a treatment centre in the capital Monrovia, beginning its countdown to being declared Ebola-free.

"I am one of the happiest human beings today on earth because it was not easy going through this situation and coming out alive," Beatrice Yardolo told the Associated Press after her release.

The 58-year-old English teacher kept thanking God and the health workers at the centre.

Ms Yardolo said she had been admitted to the Chinese-run Ebola treatment centre in the Paynesville district of Monrovia on February 18.

A mother of five, she is originally from the north-eastern county of Nimba near the borders with Guinea and Ivory Coast, but lives in Monrovia where she teaches at a church-run school.

The St Paul's Bridge community where she resides and teaches had become the last "hotspot" for Ebola cases in Monrovia, according to Tolbert Nyenswah, assistant health minister and head of the country's Ebola response.

Mr Nyenswah said on Wednesday that there were no other confirmed cases of Ebola in the country, and as such Liberia can begin to count up to 42 days to be declared Ebola-free in keeping with World Health Organisation protocols and standards.

He challenged all Liberians to commit themselves to achieving "zero Ebola infections" by rigidly abiding by the anti-Ebola regulations.

Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has said no country can be declared Ebola-free until all the other countries have no cases.

The West African nations of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have been hardest hit in the Ebola outbreak.

After causing nearly 10,000 recorded deaths since the outbreak was discovered a year ago, Ebola is also waning in Guinea.

But new cases continue to emerge in Sierra Leone. Nine new cases were reported in a 24-hour period, according to an update from the Sierra Leone government on Tuesday.

Ebola has cost the three countries an estimated 12% of their gross domestic product, shifted resources causing other healthcare problems, and hurt business as people became scared to leave their homes or go to markets.

The WHO on Wednesday reported 132 new Ebola cases last week, an increase from the 99 cases reported the previous week. The agency said the spread of Ebola remains "widespread" in Sierra Leone and noted that cases have jumped both there and in Guinea.

Nine new cases were reported in a 24-hour period, according to an update from the Sierra Leone government on Tuesday.

WHO said only about half of new Ebola patients in Guinea are connected to known cases, meaning that health officials are unable to track where the disease is spreading in the other half of cases.

The UN health agency has said it will start large-scale testing of an experimental Ebola vaccine in Guinea on Saturday to see how effective it might be in preventing future outbreaks of the deadly virus.

The health agency's vaccination strategy in Guinea aims to create a buffer zone around an Ebola case to prevent its further spread. Officials will vaccinate people who have already been exposed to Ebola cases and are at risk of developing the disease.

The vaccine being tested - VSV-EBOV - was developed by Canada and is now licensed to Merck. A second vaccine - one developed by US National Institutes of Health and GlaxoSmithKline - will be tested in a separate study as supplies become available.

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