Liberia had reported its last Ebola victim on March 20, 2015, and was declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization on May 9, 2015. However, health authorities in Liberia revealed on Wednesday, July 1, 2015, that a teenager who died of Ebola fever had spread the virus to at least two more people, confirming the first outbreak of the tropical disease for months. This news came a day after Health Minister Bernice Dahn announced the first case of Ebola in Liberia for around three months, warning that it was quite likely that authorities will find additional cases.
Health official Cestus Tarpeh, spokesman for the health department in Margibi County, said, "The infected pair had been in physical contact with the 17-year-old Ebola victim before his death in a village near the country's international airport, around an hour's drive southeast of Monrovia. We are still waiting for more results of blood tests. A herbalist who had treated the boy had evaded the authorities and was on the run."
The new outbreak comes with the country still reeling from a nightmarish Ebola epidemic which wrecked its health service and economy and left 4,800 Liberians dead. Local media reported that the 17-year-old had fallen ill on June 21, 2015, and died three days later, although this has not been confirmed by the government. There were no immediate details either on the two new cases, as epidemiologists scrambled to trace and quarantine anyone else who may have had contact with the infected teenager.
The country's neighbors Guinea and Sierra Leone are both still battling the outbreak, which has killed more than 11,200 people across west Africa, but the coastal Margibi County where this teenager died is nowhere near either border. The health ministry said, "We have no reason to believe the teenager had visited either country and the source of his infection remains a mystery."
US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, "The new Ebola death was a warning to us that the job is not done."
Experts are speculating that the latest Ebola victim could have been infected by an entirely new variation of the virus from an animal such as a fruit bat rather than by a human. A more worrying possibility is that clusters of Ebola virus continue to smoulder under the surface, far from the gaze of local or international health authorities.