Two new Ebola cases in Liberia, seven weeks after country declared virus-free
Two more people have tested positive for Ebola in Liberia, seven weeks after the country was declared free of the virus by the World Health Organisation, The Guardian reported.
They were tested after a 17-year-old male they lived with, who died on Sunday, was discovered to have had Ebola.
The town where he lived, 50km to the east of the capital Monrovia, has been quarantined, and the ministry of health is conducting an urgent contact tracing operation to see who the teenager was in touch with in the past 21 days.
The re-emergence of Ebola is of deep concern to Liberians and others trying to combat the disease in west Africa. In May, WHO announced Liberia had had no new cases of the disease in the previous 42 days - twice the incubation period of the virus.
The Ministry of Information tweeted news of the two new cases on Wednesday. The authorities were investigating whether the dead man had contracted the disease as a result of travel.
Numbers of victims have dramatically declined in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Guinea but the disease is persistent in coastal border districts. However there have been no recent cases of Ebola in any of the regions bordering with Liberia.
"Although disheartening, the case of Ebola in Liberia is no cause for panic," said Birte Hald, the team leader for Ebola coordination at the International Federation of Red Cross.
The IFRC announced it was expanding its operations in the three countries in a bid to stamp out the virus now that the case numbers have been reduced to between 20 and 27 a week, compared to hundreds a week at the disease's peak.
"These countries will not be able to begin to fully recover until they get to zero cases and stay there," said Hald.
The United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (Unmeer) visited Guinea Bissau last week to inspect its preparedness in case Ebola crosses the border after cases were registered in the neighbouring prefecture of Boké in Guinea.
Scientists have said the first Ebola victim, a two-year-old boy from Guinea believed to have triggered the current outbreak, may have been infected by playing in a hollow tree housing a colony of bats.
In its latest situation report from June 24, WHO said the disease had infected 27,443, and killed 11,207.