A 17-year-old boy has died from Ebola in Liberia, just seven weeks after the World Health Organization declared the country free of the deadly virus. Officials are trying to determine how the boy contracted the illness.
Deputy Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah, who heads Liberia’s Ebola response, told VOA the teenager died June 28 and was given a safe burial the same day.
“Our team was there yesterday [June 29] to investigate the situation and know the area. But to be vigilant is good. We were vigilant. Our surveillance team [is] working very, very well. They have picked up this dead child from his parents’ home, tested it yesterday and the child was positive," Nyenswah said.
He says it is not known yet how the boy contracted the disease, but the case is under investigation. He stressed the public should not panic, noting this is the only known case since the country was declared Ebola-free by WHO officials on May 9.
“Margibi County is responding and no need to panic," Nyenswah said. "People hearing me please lower your blood pressure. We are on top of this. The Ministry of Health, this is something we know how to deal with.”
But that message appears to be landing on deaf ears of a traumatized public.
A resident of the affected community, Gbateme Succes Sneah, says memories of the thousands who died haunt him. He says he saw first-hand the impact it had on the survivors and it is very scary to think the virus is back.
“I am very scared ... you know how difficult it was for our citizens who were in business; entrepreneurs who travelled to all the countries and how difficult it was for them. People got stigmatized," Sneah said.
Mother of four children, Comfort Freeman, feels the same.
“We, the people, can take precautions. But the children can not take precautions," she said. "So I am feeling so down this morning. I know in God we trust. He can do anything possible.”
The virus has killed more than 11,100 people since the outbreak began in late December 2013 – hitting Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Guinea declared a three week quarantine this month in a new effort to eradicate Ebola.