Almost two months after Liberia was declared Ebola-free, the disease has cropped up again — this time in a rural town outside the capital city.
So far, there’s only one new case, but health officials are rushing to stop its spread.
Liberia’s deputy health minister, Tolbert Nyenswah, said Tuesday that a 17-year-old boy died of Ebola at his home in Nedowein, a village near the country’s international airport.
“There is no need to panic. The corpse has been buried, and our contact tracing has started work,” Nyenswah told Reuters. Health officials have already started quarantining homes near where the body was found.
But there are a few reasons why the case is worrisome.
First, it’s not known where or how the teenager caught Ebola. “There is no known source of infection, and there’s no information about him traveling to Guinea or SL [Sierra Leone],” the ministry of health told Science magazine in an email.
Second, health officials didn’t know the teenager had Ebola until after he died. So he could have unwittingly spread the disease to his family and caretakers.
Finally, many international aid groups have left Liberia since cases plummeted to zero back in March. The case will test Liberia’s ability to stop an outbreak largely on its own.
The World Health Organization declared the country Ebola-free May 9. But neighboring countries Guinea and Sierra Leone are still struggling to stop the virus. Last week, the two countries reported 20 cases total, the WHO said.
Since Ebola erupted in West Africa, there have been 27,443 reported cases, More than 11,000 people have died.