The Liberian government announced on Monday that two separate tests had confirmed a 17-year-old boy had died of Ebola on June 28, the first Ebola death in that country in 49 days. The government has quarantined the town where the boy died and announced emergency measures to contain the disease.
The victim, who has not been named, was found dead of the disease last week in Nedowein, a town about 30 miles from the capital, Monrovia. That victim, a 44-year-old woman, died 49 days ago, and was found to have contracted the virus through sexual intercourse with an Ebola survivor who was still contagious. Authorities have not yet discovered where the latest victim contracted the virus and are currently investigating his contacts to find where he could have encountered Ebola.
Liberian authorities have noted that the boy was buried safely and as soon as possible, and they believe there is little risk for a second outbreak as significant as that of last summer, which has so far cost Liberia 11,207 lives.
“There is no need to panic. The corpse has been buried and our contact tracing has started work,” said Tolbert G. Nyenswah, Liberia’s Assistant Health Minister for Preventative Services. He confirmed to the Liberian Observer that the origin of this new case is unclear: “This report is preliminary. We have just begun to act two hours ago. We are investigating what may have happened after so long since the country was declared free of Ebola transmission.”
Liberian officials have begun to quarantine Nedowein, with concerns surrounding the town’s proximity to the Monrovia airport. One major puzzle for authorities to solve is where the boy came into contact with the virus, as the town is nowhere near the borders of Sierra Leone or Guinea, both nations still in the throes of the Ebola outbreak that began in February 2014.
Officials both in Liberia and internationally have not yet stated how this new case will affect precautions at airports and regarding international travel. Independently, stories of American airports dropping Ebola precautions have surfaced, particularly in Arizona, where the decision to stop screening Liberian nationals for Ebola was handed down earlier this week and before the news of the new case surfaced, because “the outbreak there has ended.” Another consideration Liberia will have to contend with is the lack of international aid. While American-built Ebola treatment units (ETUs) are still found all over the country, various international missions to help Liberia fight Ebola have ended since the World Health Organization declared Ebola-free in May.