Liberia suffers new Ebola death, months after outbreak declared over

MONROVIA (Reuters) - A woman has died of Ebola in Liberia, months after the West African nation was declared free of the virus and weeks after neighboring Guinea also recorded a new flare-up, health officials said on Friday.

The 30-year-old woman was being brought to a hospital in the capital Monrovia on Thursday after falling ill, but died before she arrived, separate statements from Liberia’s health ministry and the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

A health official said that she had previously been admitted to a clinic in Paynesville, just east of Monrovia.

“Her blood specimens were taken and tested positive of Ebola. Investigations are ongoing to identify the source of transmission and the line-listing of contacts,” the health ministry statement said.

“The Ministry of Health is encouraging the citizens not to panic in the wake of the new Ebola case,” it said.

More than 11,300 people have died over the past two years in the world’s worst Ebola epidemic, nearly all of them in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

While the WHO said this week that West Africa’s Ebola outbreak no longer constitutes an international public health risk, the region has continued to see small flare-ups even after countries received the all-clear.

This latest case in Liberia marks the third flare-up of Ebola virus disease since its original outbreak was declared over in May.

Most recently, it was declared free of active Ebola transmission in January, having passed 42 days, twice the length of the virus’s incubation period - the time between catching the disease and getting its symptoms - without a new case.

Guinea announced new cases on March 17 just hours after Sierra Leone declared an end of active transmission, a fact that briefly meant that West Africa was officially free of Ebola.

Liberia subsequently closed its border with Guinea, fearing the potential spread of the outbreak onto its territory.

It was not immediately known whether the death in Liberia was linked to the new cases in Guinea.

Additional reporting by James Harding Giahyue; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Robin Pomeroy