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New Ebola Flare-up in Liberia

FILE - People walking past a billboard reading "Stop Ebola" in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Nov. 7, 2014.

Health officials in Liberia say a five-year-old boy has tested positive for Ebola just days after his mother died of the virus.

A 30-year-old woman died of Ebola in Monrovia last week, months after Liberia was declared free of the virus. Her death followed a recent flare-up that took the lives of at least four people in neighboring Guinea.

Deputy Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah, who is also head of Liberia's Ebola Incident Management System, said the latest flare-up has been traced to Guinea. But he said unlike in the past, Liberia’s health system has the capacity to deal with the flare-up.

“Liberia has confirmed another case of the Ebola virus disease, making it two cases – the index case of the deceased mother, 30 years old and now her five-year-old son is in the Ebola treatment unit in Monrovia. But this is something that we are comfortable dealing with right now because of the capacity that country has to respond through our Incident Management System,” he said.

Neighboring Guinea announced new cases of Ebola last month, and Liberia immediately closed its border with Guinea. It also dispatched health teams to various border crossings.

Nyenswah said “From our investigation, there is strong indication that this is an imported case linked to the cluster in Guinea. The border is so porous. There are some that are official; there are some that are unofficial. And so this is the situation we are faced with."

He said health officials were able to track down all those who might have had close contacts with the deceased woman.

“In less than 24 hours, our system was able to pick up the clinic that she went to and died. We were able to pick up health care workers who had contacts. They are under voluntary, precautionary observation. We were able to pick up the family members that she was visiting in Liberia. All of them are in the ETU (Ebola Treatment Unit),” he said.

Nyenswah said the government has urged Liberians not to panic and to continue to take the preventive measures put in place at the height of the epidemic.

“Report sick people; report dead bodies; hand-washing. In as much we were Ebola free, we didn’t let our guard down. We are still applying heightened surveillance, vigilance and testing every sick people and dead bodies,” Nyenswah said.