It just keeps on coming back. Liberia reports new cases of Ebola virus in the country right before its people are about to celebrate freedom from the deadly disease.
On Friday, Liberia announced that the last batch of suspected Ebola contacts has completed the surveillance, which sprang hope that the country is on its way to totally eradicating the disease.
Now the virus is back and it has now, more than ever, dampened the spirits of Liberians.
For a country to be declared free of Ebola, the World Health Organization says it has to undergo 42 days without a single report of a new infection. For Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, this has been a constant struggle ever since the virus emerged in March 2014, killing more than 11,300 individuals.
Liberians were almost at the pinnacle of success for the third time, but with the rise of the newly detected cases, the prognosis for the country suddenly turned bleak once more.
A massive outbreak is unlikely because the government and international health groups have already formulated enhanced ways for detection, prevention and response. However, patients walking through hospital corridors or interacting within local communities are still of great possibility to pass on the disease. Such situation may continue to transcend for months and years to come.
In fact, the government of Ebola-stricken countries are currently in the midst of acknowledging that it will keep on stashing funds and manpower to drive away a deadly virus that just keeps on coming back.
"'Ebola-free,' or not 'Ebola-free' – we're going to be living with Ebola for a long time," said James Dorbor Jallah, national coordinator of Liberia's Ebola Task Force.
Before the latest reemergence, the last who died in Liberia due to Ebola was 15-year-old Nathan Gbotoe. At present, experts are performing genetic sequencing to identify how he contracted the virus, says Francis Kateh, the chief medical officer of Liberia.
The process is tedious and the results will take a few weeks to be released. "The process is not done overnight because the result is going to benefit Guinea, Sierra Leone, and the world over," said Kateh.
For the new outbreak, the primary goal is also to detect the source of the infection. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is now performing sequencing procedures to do just that.
The experts will compare the new sequences with their database to see if there is a match to previous cases in Liberia.
If no match is found, they will then compare it to sequences detected in Sierra Leone and Guinea. The experts, however, are quite positive they will find a match in Liberia, which will also determine where exactly in the country the virus exists.
Through the said sequencing procedure, Kateh said they will be able to move to the final phase of identifying where the newest reemergence originated.
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