Health workers in Liberia are struggling to tell whether a growing number of empty beds at Ebola treatment centers is a sign that the country’s ramped up response to the disease is working – or just a lull in the epidemic.
Of the West African countries hit by the 11-month outbreak, Liberia has suffered the most deaths. The virus has killed nearly 5,000 people there and in neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea – though numbers could be far higher owing to under-reporting of cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned.
Nonetheless President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf suggested in an interview with Reuters last month that the first signs of a decline in the epidemic were showing. The government has launched a huge public awareness campaign – sticking posters up and installing chlorine hand washing stations at the entrances to main buildings – that it says is stemming infection rates.