Ebola: Second case of virus found, days after outbreak was declared over

The new cases mark a major setback for Sierra Leone, which was declared to be free of the disease just hours before new cases began to be reported

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The Independent Online

A second case of Ebola has emerged, just days after the outbreak was declared over.

The UN's World Health Organisation declared the outbreak to be over just last week. Almost immediately after, another case of the virus was found — and now a close relative of that first victim has tested positive for the virus in Sierra Leone.

The outbreak was response for the death of more than 11,000 people, health ministry spokesman Sidi Yaya Tunis said.

Contacts of the first victim were being monitored for exposure to the virus. And one of those was discovered to have contracted the virus, probably during direct contact with that first victim.

The new patient was one of the people who prepared the initial victim's body for burial, 

The 22-year-old died in mid-January, and relatives were allowed to hold a traditional funeral as authorities at the time did not suspect she had died from Ebola.

Ebola is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of victims, and corpses are especially contagious. Traditional funerals in the region where mourners touch the body were a major source of virus transmission during the epidemic in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

The new cases in Sierra Leone have marked a major setback for the region, as virus transmission had appeared to stop.

Even in announcing the apparent end of the outbreak, though, World Health Organisation officials had warned that additional "flare-ups" of new cases were still possible.

However, Sierra Leone's new cases are particularly concerning to experts because no one identified the first victim as an Ebola patient, and burial precautions were not taken to prevent further infections.

There also had not been any known cases in Sierra Leone for two months, and it is still not known exactly how the 22-year-old contracted the virus.

Additional reporting by Press Association