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May 14 (GIN) – With no new infections in 42 days, Liberia has been declared free and clear of Ebola by the World Health Organization.

The announcement was made in the emergency command center in Monrovia, a room packed with reporters, aid agencies and dignitaries, including the U.S. Ambassador to Liberia Deborah R. Malac. Responses ranged from applause to tears followed by a moment of silence called by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

“At this symbolic juncture, I ask the whole world to remember the 4,608 Liberians who lost their lives, and the many thousands more who endured the horror of fighting the disease,” Johnson-Sirleaf said.

“Let us celebrate, but stay mindful and vigilant,” she said. “Clearly, the events of the last year must never be forgotten.

Then, in an action of physical closeness not seen in many months, she went around the room shaking hands.

It was just over a year ago -  in March 2014 – that the outbreak was confirmed in Liberia. It had traveled swiftly south, from Guinea to Sierra Leone and then Liberia, frightening health officials and world health agencies with its deadly ferocity. In Liberia more than 4,700 cases were fatal.

But alarm bells did not go off until the virus reached foreign shores. In July 2014, a Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer, collapsed and died in Nigeria, leaving 19 people infected and eight dead. Four months later, Thomas Eric Duncan flew into Texas where his symptoms exploded. Sent home with antibiotics, he survived only a short time after re-entering Texas Presbyterian Hospital where he passed away on Oct. 8.

The World Health Organization was also accused of being part of the problem when its initial response was to downplay the crisis. Then it attempted to shift responsibility to the three afflicted countries. After eight months it finally stepped up to take charge of the Ebola response but lacked the funds and staff to do so effectively.

"Big Pharma" was also faulted for having little in the way of an effective drug although the virus was not unknown to drug companies. Testing has begun with various drugs although disputes have broken out over whether to conduct 'blue ribbon' tests with placebo drugs or give everyone the experimental drug.

After a steady decline in new cases, Liberians have now successfully prevented any new infections since the last case was reported on March 20.

Still, outbreaks persist in neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone, raising fears that infected people may cross into Liberia over the region’s exceptionally porous borders.

Meanwhile, writing in FrontpageAfricaonline, Liberians gave thanks to God, the Liberian President, U.S. President Obama and the American people, the European Union, Cuba, China, support from Nigeria and Ghana, the United Nations and other NGOS.

“Liberian people at home and abroad, thanks,” wrote Boima Gbelly, described as self-employed. “If we fought this unknown enemy, certainly we can fight other challenges. Let's unite and help build a prosperous Liberia in a civil manner.”

“Lord, with you, all things are possible,” wrote Daa Onenokay, of the Liberian diaspora. “We want to extend thanks and sincere appreciation to our international partners for all the help and support which brought relief to Liberia… We hope that the entire Mano River Basin will be Ebola-free soon.” w/pix of Liberian women celebrating “Ebola-free” designation

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