NEDOWEIN, Liberia (Reuters) - Liberia confirmed on Wednesday it had at least two cases of Ebola, nearly two months after the West African country worst hit by the disease had been declared free of it.
More than 11,200 people have died since last year in the worst ever outbreak of Ebola, nearly all of them in three neighboring countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Liberia was the worst-hit, with more than 4,800 people dying, but was declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization on May 9 after 42 days passed with no new infections.
Neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea are still suffering, with 20 new cases reported in the week to June 21 between them.
Liberian authorities were monitoring more than 100 people to contain a new outbreak after the body of 17-year-old Abraham Memaigar tested positive for the virus on Sunday in Margibi County, a rural area about 30 miles from the capital.
He was buried the same day but the news was announced only on Tuesday. A neighbor of the boy also later tested positive.
“We have two confirmed cases today in Liberia,” Dr. Moses Massaquoi, case management team leader for Liberia’s Ebola task force, said on Wednesday.
It was not clear how the teenager caught the virus.
At the village of Nedowein, Memaigar’s mud-brick home had been placed under quarantine. Health officials wearing rubber boots and gloves were going from house to house talking to residents who were confined to their homes.
A local doctor said officials had not ruled out the possibility of transmission from an animal. In past outbreaks, humans have been infected by eating monkey flesh.
There are currently no indications that the case was imported from a neighboring country and Margibi County is far from the epidemic’s remaining hotspots.
Health officials in Nedowein were working to identify the contacts of the boy, who had attended school and visited a local clinic in the week before his death.
Ebola, spread through bodily fluids, is most contagious in the late stages when victims can suffer bleeding from the eyes and ears as well as vomiting and diarrhea.
“Other people with symptoms who have been in contact with the boy are under investigation. Over 100 people are listed as contacts and all are being monitored closely,” said WHO spokeswoman Dr. Margaret Harris in an email to Reuters.
Liberia helped to control the epidemic with the help of U.S. military assistance and hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.
“We will remain engaged with governments in the region to ensure Ebola does not take hold again in the way it did last summer,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Tuesday.