* Liberia hardest hit in world's worst outbreak
* Authorities start tracing victim's contacts
* Ebola epidemic tapers sharply this year
(Adds details throughout, quotes from residents)
By Alphonso Toweh
MONROVIA, June 30 A Liberian teenager has died
of Ebola, more than seven weeks after the west African country
was declared free of the virus, a government minister said on
The body of the 17-year-old tested positive for Ebola on
Sunday and he was buried the same day. Authorities have begun
tracing people he may have come into contact with while
infected, Deputy Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah said.
"There is no need to panic. The corpse has been buried and
our contact tracing has started work," Nyenswah told Reuters.
Officials were not immediately able to say how the victim
caught the virus.
It is the first recorded case of the disease in Liberia, one
of the countries at the heart of the world's worst Ebola
epidemic, since it was declared virus-free on May 9 after going
42 days without any new infections.
The new one was in Margibi County, a rural area near the
capital Monrovia. Margibi is home to the country's main
Aid workers said they were encouraged that authorities had
followed swift burial procedures but said there was a risk of
further cases, especially since the virus was only detected
Ebola, which is transmitted through body fluids, is most
contagious during the late stages when victims often suffer
heavy bleeding, diarrhoea and vomiting.
In the streets of Monrovia, people expressed fear of another
flare-up in cases as shopkeepers began placing buckets of
chlorine in entrance ways.
"The killer has returned again. I think we were very relaxed
after the World Health Organization declared Liberia free of
Ebola," said Rachel Massaquoi, a trader.
A total of 11,207 people have died from Ebola in Liberia,
neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone since the outbreak began in
December 2013, according to the WHO. Around 43 percent of those
deaths were in Liberia, where the epidemic peaked between August
and October with hundreds of cases a week.
New incidences have tapered this year, with 12 new confirmed
cases reported in Guinea and eight in Sierra Leone in the week
to June 21, according to WHO figures. Even so, health officials
urge vigilance to prevent a resurgence of the disease.
The new case will test Liberia's response capacity at a time
when international health organisations have wound down their
presence in the affected countries, said Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba,
spokeswoman for the U.N. Ebola response mission.
"This should have been expected because as long as there is
Ebola in the region, no one country can be safe. Liberia is
vulnerable because of Guinea and Sierra Leone," she added.
Liberia's Nyenswah said protective measures were being
strengthened at the airport. There are no plans to close land
A military operation from long-term ally the United States,
plus hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, helped Liberia
control the outbreak by improving sanitation and providing safe
Ebola damaged the health care systems and economies of the
three West African countries and caused global alarm that peaked
in September and October when isolated cases were confirmed in
countries such as the United States and Spain. Nigeria, Senegal
and Mali also recorded at least one case each.
(Additional reporting by James Harding Giahyue in Monrovia,
Matthew Mpoke Bigg in Accra and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva;
Editing by Mark Trevelyan)