The 17-year-old boy confirmed dead of the Ebola virus in Liberia, ending a 49-day Ebola-free streak for the nation, may be a second patient zero, and not the victim of the Ebola outbreak that began in February 2014 and has taken thousands of lives since then.
Officials are currently struggling to find the origin of the Ebola virus that killed Abraham Memigar on Sunday, June 28. Memigar was diagnosed with malaria shortly before his death, only to become a confirmed Ebola victim posthumously. The Liberian Observer, a major newspaper in the country, is reporting that medical officials have not confirmed how Memigar got sick. The Awareness Times, Sierra Leone’s largest newspaper, notes that Memigar had not traveled to Sierra Leone or Guinea before his disease, the two nations in which the outbreak has continued to ravage populations.
The Observer reports as “hearsay floating around” that residents of Needowein Town, where Memigar died, believe Memigar and other family members cooked and ate a dog they had found already dead, rather than one they hunted and killed themselves. Reuters is also reporting this rumor. Dogs are known to carry the Ebola virus without being affected by it and unable to spread it. This raises questions as to whether, if it is true that Memigar ate dog meat, the dog died of Ebola, as no cases of this have been recorded, according to the American Centers for Disease Control.
If the dog meat rumor is true, Memigar will be both the first case of a human contracting Ebola from a dog and a second patient zero, meaning a second outbreak of Ebola has begun, rather than a return of the original outbreak to Liberia. The patient zero of the 2014 Ebola outbreak has been confirmed as a small boy who ate bat meat. Bats are known to spread the Ebola virus into humans through consumption.
Yesterday, Liberian medical officials confirmed two other new Ebola cases, both related to Memigar. The Observer notes that three other family members at his home are exhibiting symptoms, but only two test results have returned to officials. More than 100 people are being quarantined. One official notes that “of that number, 55 persons are primary contacts, meaning that they came in direct contact with the boy prior to his death.”
FrontPageAfrica, a Liberian publication, is identifying one of the two new cases as Memigar’s friend, Friday Nyanfor. Alarmingly, the newspaper notes that two other individuals who are rumored to have eaten the dog are not being traced by medical professionals and that one is a pregnant woman.
Ebola has taken the lives of 4,800 Liberians and more than 11,200 people across West Africa. The outbreak continues to rage in Guinea and Sierra Leone.