An entire Liberian family was being treated at a special Ebola unit Friday after a 10-year-old boy tested positive for the virus, officials said.
It’s a blow for efforts to end the West African epidemic, which has killed more than 11,000 people and made more than 28,000 people sick, and it’s a reminder of just how hard it will be to completely stamp out the infection.
The World Health Organization confirmed the boy had tested positive and local health officials said five other members of his family were being treated. The New York Times quoted local officials as saying two other family members, including the boy’s father, had also been diagnosed with Ebola.
Liberian health minister Bernice Dahn said the boy, his parents and three siblings were at an Ebola treatment unit outside the capital Monrovia.
"The hospital is currently decontaminating the unit. All of the healthcare workers who came in contact with the patient have been notified," she said told a news conference.
WHO’s Dr. Bruce Aylward said the boy’s parents were briefly sick, but he had no known contact with any Ebola victim.
"The family obviously is at particular risk and are being investigated right now because two of the siblings have been unwell over the last two days so they are also being investigated," he told a news conference in Geneva.
Liberia was declared Ebola-free in May, but then another case popped up in June. Then the country appeared to be Ebola-free again.
Sierra Leone was declared free of the virus on Nov. 7 and Guinea has begun its 42-day countdown to being declared free of the virus after the last known patient, a newborn baby girl named Nubia, recovered.
No one is quite sure where Ebola came from in the first place in West Africa. Because the symptoms resemble those of other diseases circulating in the region, including malaria and Lassa fever, it can be difficult to detect new cases.