Liberia is back to square one as the country reported its first new case of Ebola after being declared free of the virus in May. A genetic test on the strain that infected a 17-year-old boy, however, suggests that Liberia might not have been Ebola-free after all.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), test results showed that the Ebola virus that killed the boy is closely related to an earlier strain that has been found in Liberia. Given the latest casualty had not come into contact with foreigners and lived far from earlier hotspots on the borders of Sierra Leone and Guinea during the outbreak, WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said the infection was likely acquired from a non-identified transmission within the community or a survivor.
The virus is thought to have the ability to survive in most body fluids, such as vomit and blood, for 21 days but has been shown to persist even in semen and soft tissues sometimes months after a patient has recovered, making it possible for Abraham Memaigar to have been infected by a survivor.
Liberia had to fight the Ebola outbreak for 14 months, so it came as no surprise that being declared free of the virus was a joyous occasion. Did the celebration come too soon?
The resurgence of the virus in the country is a stern reminder that there is no room to let up; all efforts aimed at fighting Ebola must continue even when the outbreak has slowed down.
The international community's participation in quelling the outbreak greatly helped in keeping Ebola at bay, but curbing the spread of the disease—in just one out of the three countries most heavily hit by the virus—appeared to have given many the idea that it was alright to ease up.
However, even if Liberia, or the rest of West Africa, has been declared truly Ebola-free, that only marks the beginning of rehabilitation. Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone were already some of the poorest countries in the world, and getting hit by the outbreak placed a heavier toll on them. An important aspect of helping these countries get back on their feet involves ensuring children get back the time they lost for their schooling.
At the end of June, over 27,000 people had been infected with Ebola, while over 11,200 have died in West Africa.
Photo: NIAID | Flickr