Liberia has confirmed its second Ebola case shortly after it was announced that the virus was detected in the country seven weeks after it was declared to be officially free from the disease.
Tests are being carried out to see if there are other cases so, while waiting for results, Liberian officials have moved to quarantine the area where the body of a 17-year-old boy with Ebola was found. Specifically, the quarantine is focused on two households who were in close proximity to the corpse.
While the move is an effective measure preventing the further spread of Ebola and identifying if the virus has infected others, it has sparked fears that Liberia could once again be facing another outbreak so soon after it was declared Ebola-free.
Tolbert Nyenswah, head of the Ebola response team and deputy health minister for Liberia, said the 17-year-old died in his home and was safely buried to prevent the disease from spreading. The quarantine is in place in the Nedowein area where the boy died. Nedowein is situated close to Liberia's international airport, located about 30 miles south of Monrovia, the country's capital.
An investigation is also under way to determine how the boy was infected. According to Nyenswah, Nedowein is far from the borders of the country it shares with Guinea and Sierra Leone, which both still have cases of Ebola.
Liberia was declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization in May after the country was able to go 42 days without having a new case. Before that, the country had been the hardest hit by the outbreak, accounting for over 4,800 deaths out of the over 11,100 dead in West Africa because of the virus.
Dr. Margaret Harris, a spokesperson for the WHO, explained that just a single case of the disease means the country has Ebola. Following the 42-day transmission period, which Liberia cleared, a 90-day period of heightened alert is enforced, alongside a surveillance system.
Though the country is back to square one, it seems to have a system that is functioning well, given it was able to go for more than 42 days without a new case, added Harris.
After ensuring the body of a dead infected individual has been buried properly, the next course of action is to determine if anyone else has been infected. The quarantine period lasts for 21 days, following the Ebola virus' incubation period.
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