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Sierra Leone releases its last Ebola patient, starts countdown to WHO Ebola-free declaration

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MAKENI, Sierra Leone — Health authorities in Sierra Leone have released the country's last known Ebola patient from the hospital.

The patient's release on Monday now starts the clock for a 42-day countdown until the World Health Organization can declare the country Ebola-free.

PHOTO: In this photo taken Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, a billboard advises people how to keep free of Ebola, in a shanty town on the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone, as people in the nearby village of Massessehbeh are finally released from Ebola quarantine, after Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma cut a tape to release the quarantine in the village.  Five months after a man traveled to his home village for festivities marking the end of Ramadan, and died suddenly from Ebola, but now President Koroma came to cut down the fencing to mark the formal end of Sierra Leone's largest remaining Ebola quarantine. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
In this photo taken Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, a billboard advises people how to keep free of Ebola, in a shanty town on the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone, as people in the nearby village of Massessehbeh are finally released from Ebola quarantine, after Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma cut a tape to release the quarantine in the village. Five months after a man traveled to his home village for festivities marking the end of Ramadan, and died suddenly from Ebola, but now President Koroma came to cut down the fencing to mark the formal end of Sierra Leone's largest remaining Ebola quarantine. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Such a declaration would leave just one country left in West Africa with Ebola cases — Guinea, where the epidemic first began in late 2013.

Sierra Leone's National Ebola Response Center director OB Sisay says authorities know there is still a high risk more cases could emerge. He says the "job is far from over."

Nearly 4,000 people have died of Ebola in Sierra Leone since the virus was first detected in May 2014. The patient released Monday is the mother of a man who died in late July.

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