Ebola has returned to Liberia, just almost two months after the World Health Organization declared the West African country free of the dreaded virus.
Tolbert Nyenswah, Liberia’s deputy minister for health, announced on Tuesday a new Ebola case had emerged. It was the first after the last case the country had three months ago.
The case was detected in a small town just outside Monrovia that’s not near the border it shares with neighbors Guinea and Sierra Leone. The fatality was a 17-year-old boy who died at his home in the Margibi County village of Nedowein. A report by the Associated Press says he was buried safely.
He reportedly fell ill on June 21, and was already dead by June 28. Cynical of his death, his family asked that the burial team take swabs of his body. They sent the samples to a laboratory where it was confirmed that the Ebola virus had infected and killed the boy.
An Ebola response team went to his burial site on Tuesday to exhume the body and conduct more precise tests by drawing blood from it. The test also came back positive.
By late Tuesday, a person with whom the deceased boy had contact tested positive for Ebola. At least 27 people are now being monitored, AllAfrica reported. Two households have been quarantined, the AP says. Nyenswah said the quarantined homes are just sent food.
It baffles Liberia how the boy got the virus and from whom he got it. Nyenswah said they still have to ascertain if the infection came from Guinea or Sierra Leone. The boy used to sell clothes at a local market. Liberia’s other West African neighbors still have small numbers of new Ebola cases.
But this recent case raised concerns in Liberia because it happened in a part of the country that’s not near the border with either Guinea or Sierra Leone, prompting suspicions that it could be a new strain.
Of the three West African countries, it was Liberia that was the hardest-hit by the Ebola virus when it started spreading in West Africa at the end of 2013. Close to 5,000 lives have died there because of the virus.