Corpse tests positive for Ebola in Liberia as Canada ends military mission

A Liberian has died of Ebola in the first recorded case of the disease since a country at the heart of an epidemic was declared virus free on May 9.

Case should have been expected because Ebola remains in the region, UN says

A Liberian has died of Ebola in the first recorded case of the disease since a country at the heart of an epidemic that has killed more than 11,000 people was declared virus free on May 9.

The body of a 17-year-old tested positive for Ebola in Margibi County, and authorities have begun tracing people the victim may have come into contact with while infected, Deputy Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah said on Tuesday.

"There is no need to panic. The corpse has been buried and our contact tracing has started work," Nyenswah told Reuters. Margibi is a rural area close to the capital Monrovia, and home to the country's main international airport.

A total of 11,207 people died from Ebola in Liberia, neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone since the outbreak began in December 2013, World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told a news conference in Geneva.

Around 43 per cent of those deaths were in Liberia, where the world's worst outbreak of the disease peaked between last 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 organizations have wound down their presence in the affected countries, said Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, spokeswoman for the U.N. Ebola response mission.

Liberia fought Ebola at a community level, adopting regular hand-washing and the safe burial of bodies among other measures and the discovery of the new case shows that systems for testing remain in place, she said.

"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."

Canada ends Ebola mission in West Africa

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 before ending the epidemics in their countries.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, the federal government announced the end of the Canadian Armed Forces' six-month mission to fight the spread of Ebola in West Africa.

Canadian military doctors, nurses, medics and support staff worked at the United Kingdom's Kerry Town Treatment Unit in Sierra Leone.

The U.K. government informed Canada it no longer needs help at Kerry Town because of the decline in cases, the Department of National Defence said in a statement. 

Earlier this month, the federal government said it's extending the strengthened public health measures for travellers returning from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia until Dec. 31. Under the measures, quarantine officers conduct health assessments of people with a travel history to those three countries.

When the WHO declared Liberia Ebola free in May, it recommended that the country keep up heightened surveillance for 90 days. The federal government said it will re-evaluate its screening precautions after those 90 days.

With files from CBC News


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.