MONROVIA (Reuters) - Liberia, once the epicenter of West Africa's deadly Ebola epidemic, has just five remaining confirmed cases of the disease, a senior health official said on Friday, highlighting the country's success in halting new infections.
The worst Ebola outbreak on record has killed more than 8,600 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Earlier this year at the height of the outbreak in Liberia, hospitals without beds for new patients were forced to turn away victims and bodies were left in the streets.
But a massive international response -- including the deployment of hundreds of U.S. troops to build treatment centers -- plus a public awareness campaign, contributed to a steep decline in infection rates.
"We have five confirmed Ebola cases in Liberia as of today," said Deputy Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah, who heads Liberia's Ebola taskforce.
"It means that we are going down to zero, if everything goes well, if other people don’t get sick in other places."
Three of the remaining cases were in the capital Monrovia and the other two in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties, he added.
Nyenswah said last week that Liberia could be free of the virus by the end of next month.
(Reporting by James Harding Giahyue; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Andrew Heavens)