The latest case of Ebola in Sierra Leone is a discouraging reminder of the journey still

Sierra Leone will vaccinate about 200 people who came in contact with the 67-year-old woman who died of ebola on Saturday, a spokeswoman for the U.N. World Health Organisation said on Wednesday.

“We will vaccinate those in the (Tonko Limba) chiefdom who came into direct contact with the deceased and those contacts they also came into close contact with”, said WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris. She also added that an effective drug which arrived from Guinea will be used for voluntary vaccinations on Thursday or Friday.

This development sets back all efforts to end an epidemic which has infected more than 28,000 people in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. Although the deadly virus was almost totally out of the country, reports of a fresh ebola case in Sierra Leone has not only halted the 42-day countdown to being declared ebola-free, it is a discouraging reminder of the difficulty in battling the disease.

About two months ago Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea were on the same boat—badly in need to lose the ‘ebola tag’. The outbreak subsided in Sierra Leone only to resurface since it was first declared in March 2014. Liberia was declared Ebola-free in May, however new cases appeared nearly two months later. Liberia’s last case was discharged on July 23.

With Liberia presently off the hook, Sierra Leone will be left with stigma that may continue to becloud their international perception. This negative perception will reduce the country’s attractiveness for foreign investment and thus inhibit the socio-economic recovery it desperately needs.

A few efforts sprung up to counter the Ebola stereotype, like Jo Dunlop’s Freetown Fashpack, a website that showcases the fashion side of Sierra Leone. But while such efforts make a good start to changing the perception of Sierra Leone and its neighbours, removing the Ebola stigma won’t be an easy task, and more concerted and government directed efforts are needed. What they need is to show the world the willingness and ability to lock down the re-emergence of Ebola and open up an enabling environment for the thriving of local and foreign investments. Improving governance and promoting societal development.

While there has been no explanation for this resurgence in Sierra Leone, scientists have attributed sexual transmission to the re-emergence in Liberia considering the virus can live on in semen beyond the usual 21-day incubation period.

A country is considered free of Ebola transmission once two 21-day incubation periods have passed since the last known case tests negative for a second time. However even after 42 days have passed the danger may not be over.

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