Months before Liberia was declared Ebola-free, Dr Tom Frieden, the director, US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned against complacency as the epidemic could worsen in future.
The truthfulness in his words is now resounding in Liberia. Authorities in the West African country are perplexed as to what could have caused the resurgence of the disease that is confirmed to have killed a 17-year-old on June 28.
The boy, who hails from Margibi country outside the country’s capital, Monrovia, died under unexplainable circumstances three days after falling ill. A post-mortem diagnosis revealed that he succumbed to the Ebola disease.
His death is the first since World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the country Ebola- free on May 9. On whether this outbreak could be ringing a knell for yet another full-scale outbreak of the disease, Dr Joa Ja’KkenoOkech-Ojony, a Ugandan epidemiologist and public health specialist leading the Ugandan team of specialists in Liberia says,“There is no need for alarm.
Liberia has developed full capacity to handle Ebola and there has been attitude change amongst community members including handling of bodies. Medical workers have also been fully trained to handle cases.”
Dr Okech-Ojony, however, cautions that there is urgent need to identify people who have been in contact with the deceased for a 21- day follow-up to confirm whether or not they could have contracted the disease.
Dr Misaki Wayengera, Uganda’s principal investigator of the Ebola rapid diagnostic test kit, points to the possibility of this being one of the unidentified cases.
“This might not necessarily be a fresh outbreak but it might be one of those cases that went undetected. Whether or not there could be another full-scale outbreak will depend on mechanisms that the country has established,” he told The Observer in a phone interview.
Since Ebola’s spate in December 2013, 11,207 people have died from Ebola in Liberia and neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone, according to World Health Organisation.
Meanwhile, health officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are investigating the possible outbreak of Ebola in Masambio village, according to Reuters.
It is reported that six hunters fell ill last week with symptoms of Ebola including diarrhoea, bloody urine and vomiting, after killing an antelope. Four of the hunters have since died.