A Liberian has died of Ebola in the first recorded case since the country at the heart of an epidemic was declared free of the virus on May 9, Deputy Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah said on Tuesday.
"A 17-year-old corpse was tested positive for Ebola virus. This took place in Margibi County. There is no need to panic. The corpse has been buried and our contact tracing has started work," said Nyenswah.
The teenager died June 24 in Nedowein, a town situated close to the country's international airport, about 30 miles south of the capital of Monrovia, and was given a safe burial the next day, said Nyenswah, who is also head of the country's Ebola response effort.
Liberia had been the country hardest hit by last year's Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The World Health Organization declared Liberia to be Ebola free on May 9 after the country went 42 days without reporting a case.
"We have said over and over again there was possibility that there could be a resurgence of the virus in Liberia," Nyenswah said. "But our surveillance teams, our capacity is very strong."
The virus, which has killed over 11,100 people mostly in West Africa in its worst outbreak ever, is hanging on stubbornly in Guinea, where the Ebola outbreak was first reported in March 2014, and in Sierra Leone.
It was not known how the 17-year-old contracted Ebola. The town where the teenager died is far from the borders with Sierra Leone and Guinea, so Nyenswah said they are investigating whether his case might be linked to travel.
Specimens were taken from the corpse before burial, and the tests later came back positive.
"The only complication is that the person died before we tested the body as part of our surveillance system of testing living and dead people," Nyenswah said.
Nyenswah said teams are already doing contact tracing in the Nedowein area.
"There is no need for pandemonium; people should go about their normal business," he said. He called the Ebola testing of the young man's corpse "a success story for our surveillance system."
The Ebola Incident Management System team will meet on Tuesday to look into the incident, he said.