Just a couple of days after reporting on Liberia’s first case of the deadly Ebola virus since the country was declared free of the disease, authorities have confirmed a third new case. These fresh cases have raised fears of another outbreak, but health authorities and aid organizations insist that they are now better prepared to prevent the virus from spreading further.
Liberian authorities are currently monitoring 175 people who have come into contact with the three cases. The World Health Organization (WHO) expects this number to rise as the investigation continues, the Associated Press reports.
The first new case was 17-year-old Abraham Memaigar, whose death was announced earlier this week. Memaigar first visited a local health facility and was misdiagnosed with Malaria and discharged. He died a week later and postmortem tests confirmed that it was due to Ebola. He received a safe burial the same day. A neighbor later tested positive for the virus.
“We have, as of yesterday, three confirmed cases. One expired, who was the 17-year-old boy ... The two live cases are 24 years old and 27 years old. They are stable,” Deputy Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah said on Thursday, Reuters reports.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf insisted that there was “no need to panic” as she's confident health officials will be able to bring the situation under control. Sirleaf told Reuters that the disease “will be contained.”
The WHO is looking into the origin of the infection, which remains unclear. Memaigar’s case has puzzled authorities as he had no recent history of travel, didn’t attend any funerals and had no contact with visitors from affected areas.
The UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) urged everyone to stay “vigilant” in a statement. “We must stay focused until we reach zero cases. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is not over. We must stay engaged until the job is done.”
None of the new victims are thought to have travelled to Ebola-affected countries Guinea or Liberia. Some health workers suspect that there are hidden remaining hotspots to which officials have not paid attention.
Dr Philip Ireland, from the John F Kennedy Medical Centre, who is also an Ebola survivor, told ABC: “This might mean that there is a reservoir of Ebola in animals that we have not been paying attention to. It could pop up anywhere.”