Just over two weeks after the release of its last known Ebola patient, Liberian officials have confirmed a new case. The hardest-stricken of three African nations has already lost over 4,000 lives to the deadly virus.
Officials in Liberia were scheduled to meet in an emergency session on Saturday in the latest chapter of the Ebola epidemic.
The cause of the meeting was announced the evening before when health officials confirmed that a woman in the capital city Monrovia had been diagnosed with the hemorrhagic virus.
"This is a new case after we have gone more than 27 days without a single case. It is a setback," government spokesman Lewis Brown said.
The last confirmed Ebola patient in Liberia was discharged from hospital on March 5, prompting a 42-day countdown to begin until the West African country could be declared free of the fatal disease.
Since the outbreak of the epidemic in December 2013, the United Nations has counted over 10,000 Ebola-related deaths, nearly all of which occurred in across Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Health officials, while hopeful that Liberia would report no new cases by mid-April, remained aware of the threat posed by the neighboring West African nations still crisis-ridden.
"We knew very well that we were not out of the woods yet," the acting head of Liberia's Ebola Incident Management Team, Tolbert Nyenswah, said.
Doctors have not been able to determine how the latest patient contracted Ebola. Authorities were reportedly considering several possibilities, including her having been visited by someone from abroad or her having had sex with an Ebola survivor.
Liberia has recorded the highest number of deaths at 4,162, followed by Sierra Leone's 3,655 and Guinea's 2,187 deaths. There have also been six deaths in Mali, one in the US, and eight in Nigeria. Those countries have since been declared Ebola-free.
An experimental Ebola vaccine, developed by Merck and NewLink Genetics, entered the final stage of testing in Guinea in early March, weeks after a similar test began in neighboring Liberia.
kms/bk (AP, AFP)