Freetown, Sierra Leone — One death was confirmed this Friday as Ebola-related in Sierra Leone. The nation was recently declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization (WHO), although they warned that flare-ups were likely to happen.
The latest victim was a 22 year-old woman named Mariatu Jalloh. It is not clear where she was infected, but there were at least 27 people in contact with her, including 22 people at the house where she died and another five who washed the corpse, said an anonymous source as reported by Reuters.
They are now at risk of contracting the deadly disease and could initiate another serious outbreak if the authorities fail following the health protocol and stop the spread.
Dozens in Freetown are now protesting for the negligence of the health department. A local hospital apparently misdiagnosed and sent home the infected women, putting thousands at risk, once again.
“We are demonstrating because we want the authorities to explain to us why the woman was discharged and allowed to go home, where she died, and her corpse was given to her family to bury. We are now concerned that some family members may have been infected,” said local youth leader Mahmud Tarawally.
How it all began
Jalloh started to have symptoms at the beginning of the year. She traveled to Bamoi Luma near Guinea’s border in December. Contact tracing is complicated at this region due access problems, so it is still unclear where or how she was infected.
The young woman returned to her parent’s home in Tonkolili district, near Freetown, in different taxis. She presented diarrhea and had been vomiting, a report by the anonymous source said.
Later she looked for treatment at a local hospital where they examined her and took a blood sample, without any protection instruments from the health worker. They did not clarify if she was in fact infected with Ebola.
Jalloh died later at home where she was sent by the hospital that declared her as an outpatient. After her death, health workers tested the body and the Ebola death was confirmed.
“The sample was tested for the first time on Thursday morning – around the same time as the WHO declared the Ebola outbreak over,” said Tim Brooks of Public Health England, the British agency that tested the sample at its lab in Sierra Leone.
The WHO announced that there have been 10 cases that were not part of the original outbreak. This means that probably the new cases could be from the survivors that are able to carry the virus.
The virus is able to remain in the semen of some male survivors after a year of the infection and could be transmitted to sexual partners, although this is less likely to happen. Normally, the virus disappears quickly from the survivors.
Sierra Leone is at a 90-day period of enhanced surveillance after the Ebola-free declaration on November, according to WHO in a press release. The period is designed to ensure the security and protocol against the disease, detect any missed chains of transmission and also for dealing with news flare-ups of the disease, added the organization.