After almost two months of being Ebola-free, two new cases have been confirmed by the Government of Liberia and with these new cases, Liberia is no longer “Ebola free”. The country was reaching 50 days Ebola free on the 29th of June.
On 28th of June, a 17 year old boy from Margibi County died from the Ebola virus. On the 29th of June the Ministry of Health and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) received a positive Ebola test from the laboratory. The victim died on the 28th in his father’s house in Smell No Taste, a community that is walking distance from Roberts Field International Airport – Monrovia’s primary international airport.
The Minister of Health Bernice Dahn disclosed that when the boy began showing symptoms he visited a clinic and got tested for malaria. He was tested positive for malaria and was sent to his mother’s house in Nedowein community. It appears he moved from his mother’s house to his father’s house in Smell No Taste, where he died on the 28th. After his death, the family called the burial team who took a mouth swab of the victim and sent it to the LIBR government testing laboratory. The boy was safely buried by the government burial team on the 28th of June. The Ebola test came back positive from the lab on the 29th of June.
The Ministry of Health, together with the CDC, has dispatched a contact tracing team to the boy’s community. The team is not yet clear about the number of people the boy was in contact with while he was ill. The family of the boy has been placed under quarantine as well as the hospital staff who treated him. Family members are being provided with food by the County Health Team and will be observed for 21 days.
It is unclear how the 17 year old was infected with the Ebola virus. The contact tracing team is currently following up to verify if the boy or anyone else in his proximity has recently travelled to Guinea or Sierra Leone.
Assistant Minister Tolbert Nyenswah has officially stated that the borders will not be closed. He has also stated that the new case gives Liberians no reason to panic. He believes that they should see the incident as a “success story since it has proven that our surveillance system works”.
The Ebola Treatment Centre in Margibi has been reactivated to respond to the situation in the county. Nyenswah stated that the Ministry of Health is prepared for the further Ebola cases: in Monrovia, ELWA hospital is able to treat patients, and in the counties, the Ebola Treatment Units in Bong, Nimba and Lofa were never decommissioned, so continue to function according to protocol.
Minister of Health Bernice Dahn has called upon community members to telephone the Ebola emergency number (4455) and to inform community leaders if Ebola is suspected in their community.
Meanwhile, Margibi County Information Officer told UNMIL Radio on Wednesday that 12 health workers at the clinic where the boy seeked health care have been quarantine while the town has also been quarantine.
Questions remain unanswered regarding which hospital treated the boy; why the boy was sent home without taking an Ebola test; why the hospital did not alert the authorities; how the boy was transported between communities and the extent of the contact the boy had with other people while he was contagious.