Health authorities have confirmed that the dog initially thought to be the reason for the re-emergence of Ebola in Liberia tested negative for the virus. The announcement was made on Tuesday, July 7, alongside reports of two more new cases of the disease in the country.
According to the neighbors of the first individual, who contracted the virus since its re-emergence, the boy shared a meal of dog meat with some peers shortly before he succumbed to death on June 28. The dog also died and its remains were collected by a team of researchers, who tested it for Ebola. The carcass of the animal was retrieved in the small place of Nedowein situated in Margibi County. Although there had been no evidence stating that dogs can carry the virus, some animals such as monkeys and pigs are identified as carriers.
"I learned today the result was negative, but we have to be careful because the remains are in bad condition and the test is designed for humans," says a Liberia health official, who opted to leave his identity private as investigations are still ongoing.
Even if the dog is tested positive for the virus, the interval between the death of the victim and the dog testing has already lapsed, says Francis Ketteh, deputy head of Liberia's Ebola response team.
Authorities and experts are still solving the puzzle of Ebola's re-emergence in Liberia. This is specifically because the area where 17-year-old Abraham Memaigar (the first new Ebola patient) lived is significantly distant from the borders of Sierra Leone and Guinea, which are still in the process of eradicating the disease.
A total of five new cases have been confirmed in the latest Ebola outbreak in Liberia. The two new cases mentioned with the dog tests results announcement were the fourth and fifth cases, as three previous cases have been confirmed previously, states Ketteh.
The identification of the primary source of the virus is of utmost essentiality as this information can provide an insight about the necessary preparations for future outbreaks, where experts deem the Ebola virus is endemic, potentially being carried by animal hosts. In 2005, a study conducted in Gabon, where previous cases of Ebola were recorded, shows that dogs have antibodies against the virus, probably explaining why it may have survived the outbreak. Experts are also looking at the possibility that the Ebola virus inside Memaigar's body disappeared but persistently affect people in far-flung areas of the country.
Liberia was able to go through 42 days without any new reports of Ebola; hence, the country was declared free of the disease by the World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2015. The number of mortality cases in Liberia is 4,800 out of the 11,100 recorded in the entire West Africa.