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Nov 08, 2015 06:48 AM EST

Ebola epidemic ends in Sierra Leone

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Sierra Leone marked the end of the Ebola epidemic with celebrations and a candlelight vigil, Reuters reports. 

The Ebola epidemic has killed almost 4,000 people in Sierra Leone including more than 220 health workers since it began last year.

The West African nation's epidemic was declared over on Saturday following 42 days with no new cases of Ebola.

According to Euronews, Ernest Bai Koroma, President of Sierra Leone, said: "I fully endorse the WHO recommendations for enhanced surveillance to continue in Sierra Leone for the next 90 days."

"The Ebola outbreak has ended in Sierra Leone but we must remain vigilant and we must remain alert."

The 42-day countdown begins when the last patient tests negative a second time, after a 48-hour gap following their first negative test.

The candlelit vigil was organised by women's groups to pay tribute to health workers who lost their lives. Many of the health workers who died were infected due to inadequate protective equipment and training.

"They died so we could live," university student Fatmata said with tears in her eyes.

Victoria Yillia, the country's first confirmed Ebola survivor, said she was "happy that this disease which almost killed me has finally ended".

Ebola has killed more than 11,300 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea since the epidemic was announced in March 2014, according to WHO data.

Around 28,500 people were infected and Sierra Leone's death toll was 3,955 people.

Liberia was declared free of Ebola on Sept. 3, while a handful of cases remain in Guinea.

"We now have a unique opportunity to support Sierra Leone to build a strong and resilient public health system ready to detect and respond to the next outbreak of disease or any other public health threat," Nordstrom, U.N. World Health Organization (WHO) representative, said at the ceremony.

The country now enters a 90-day period of surveillance with support from the WHO.

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