A 15-year-old boy has died of Ebola in Liberia, more than two months after the country was declared free of the virus. The death is a blow to the West African country following the worst ever outbreak of the disease.
Nathan Gbotoe died overnight east of the capital Monrovia, Liberia's Heath Ministry said on Tuesday. The teenager tested positive to the virus last week, and had been receiving treatment at an Ebola unit in Paynesville.
Officials said his father and brother had since tested positive, while more than 150 other people who may have come into contact with the boy were being monitored. Chief health officer Francis Kateh said that an additional 25 healthcare workers were under observation, including eight medical staff considered "high risk."
Gbotoe was Liberia's first Ebola patient since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the country Ebola-free for the second time in September. The health agency first declared the nation clear of the virus in May, but new cases emerged in June. Liberia's last Ebola death was in July.
UNICEF warns against complacency
Liberia says it is seeking help from two experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States to determine the cause of the latest infections. The outbreak, which began in December 2013, killed roughly 11,300 people, mainly in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. According to the WHO, Liberia registered the highest number of fatalities, with more than 4,800 people perishing in the epidemic.
The United Nations children's agency UNICEF said the new cases in Liberia should serve as a warning to neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone to remain vigilant.
"Everyone celebrates when the last case is treated but we can't let our guard down. There will be other fires, we need to be ready for them too," said UNICEF representative Sheldon Yett.
Ebola's incubation period - the time between infection and symptoms becoming apparent - can take anything from two to 21 days, according the WHO. For this reason, declaring a country free of the virus is difficult. Carriers of Ebola only become infectious once they develop symptoms.
nm/msh (Reuters, AP, dpa)