GENEVA, Switzerland – The World Health Organization on Friday confirmed that a new case of the deadly Ebola virus has surfaced in Liberia, which was declared Ebola free in September.
The patient is a 10-year-old boy who fell sick on November 14 and was hospitalised in Liberia's capital Monrovia three days later, the head of the UN agency's Ebola response, Bruce Aylward, told journalists in Geneva.
Initial investigations have not yet turned up a confirmed link with any other Ebola sufferer, leaving many questions unanswered as health officials try to figure out the origins of the new case.
"The child has no known history of contact with a survivor or having been at a funeral" where an Ebola victim was buried, Aylward added, a reference to the fact that secretions from the corpses of those who died from the virus are highly contagious.
"I'm sure as we start to move forward, we will see more clarity," the UN official assured, stressing that Liberia's emergency response system has improved drastically since the initial outbreak of the virus that wreaked havoc across parts of West Africa.
Two of the boy's siblings have reported feeling ill over the last two days, raising concern that they may have also contracted the deadly haemorrhagic fever.
"His father and mother had transient illnesses in the last few weeks, so obviously that could be one of the lines of transmission," Aylward continued.
Liberia, where thousands died at the height of the epidemic last year, was first declared Ebola free in May, only to see the fever resurface six weeks later, and again in September.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, Liberia has registered more than 10,600 cases and 4,808 deaths, according to the latest situation report from the UN health agency published earlier this week.
According to the latest toll given by WHO, the epidemic that started in December 2013 has left more than 11,300 dead, mainly in the west African states of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, out of almost 29,000 cases.
Friday's news comes just days after the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced the last known Ebola case in Guinea, a three-week old girl, had recovered.
Sierra Leone was declared to have beaten the virus earlier this month.
In Guinea the last-known sufferer was declared cured on Monday, starting the clock on a 42-day countdown -- twice the incubation period of the virus -- before the country can be declared Ebola-free. – Rappler.com