MONROVIA – A 15-year-old boy died of Ebola on Monday night in Monrovia, being the first fatality since July.
Liberia, the country hit hardest by the mortal virus, was first declared Ebola-free in May by the United Nations health agency and again in September, but last Friday the teenager was diagnosed with the disease along with his younger brother and father, who remain under treatment.
Nathan Gbotoe showed Ebola symptoms such as bleeding and fever and was tested positive. He was taken with his eight-year-old brother and father to isolation in a specialized Ebola treatment unit located in Paynesville, near the capital Monrovia.
The source of the virus remains under extensive investigation. To help discover it, Liberia requested the cooperation of two specialists from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, as reported by Reuters. The virus can remain in the semen of male survivors, in the eyes and other parts of the body for a nine-month period after the infection, long after it is out of the bloodstream, according to recent studies.
Carissa Guild, a nurse in charge of Doctors Without Borders operations in Liberia, expressed how surprised she was by the fact that the current information about the virus is still so poor.
“Our working hypothesis is that the virus is reintroduced into the human population through uninfected people and we know that it is a possibility that people who have been infected with the virus previously may continue to transmit,” explained Liberia country representative for the U.N. World Health Organization, Dr. Alex Gasasira, according to Reuters.
Liberia, along with international experts and the World Health Organization (WHO), is working on a protocol to develop a trial Ebola vaccine. It could be applied to people who might have been in contact with the infected patients, said Gasasira. He added that trials of the vaccine have been already proven effective in Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Chief medical officer Francis Kateh informed that there are 153 people under surveillance, since they might have had contact with the boy. The medical staff who attended the boy before the diagnosis did not use any protective equipment, and therefore 25 healthcare workers are being closely monitored –of whom 10 are identified as high-risk.
The WHO reported that there have been over 10,600 cases in Liberia and nearly 5,000 people have died from Ebola in that country, which marks the record of the highest number of losses in the entire outbreak compared to Sierra Leone and Guinea.
The Ebola virus disease (EVD) made its first appearance in 1976, as two outbreaks occurred simultaneously in Nzra, Sudan, and Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. Later, it appeared in a village near the Ebola River, which is where the disease’s name comes from. The first case of the current outbreak in West Africa, the worst and most complex since 1976, was reported in March 2014.