MONROVIA: Liberia said on Thursday (Friday in Manila) it was dealing with the first case of suspected Ebola to have originated within its own borders, unconnected to the epidemic raging in neighboring Guinea, as Mali also detected three suspected victims.
If confirmed, the case in Liberia’s eastern town of Tapeta would mark a worrying development in the fight against Ebola, as cases so far have been attributed to people returning with the infection from Guinea, where 84 people have died.
“We have a case in Tapeta where a hunter who has not had any contact with anyone coming from Guinea got sick,” chief medical officer Bernice Dahn told Agence France-Presse.
“He was rushed to the hospital and died 30 minutes later. He never had any interaction with someone suspected to be a carrier of the virus and he has never gone to Guinea. This was an a isolated case,” she added.
The fruit bat, thought to be the host of the highly contagious Ebola virus, is a delicacy in the region straddling Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and experts suspect bush meat caught by huntsmen may be the source of the outbreak.
Tapeta, a small town in the eastern county of Nimba, is 400 kilometers (250 miles) from the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak in southern Guinea, at least a five-hour drive and much further from the border than other suspected cases.
“The huntsman has 500 traps in the forest. He felt sick in the forest and was rushed to the hospital,” Dahn told Agence France-Presse, adding that seven new patients brought the total suspected Ebola cases in Liberia to 14.
The tropical virus leads to hemorrhagic fever, which causes muscle pain, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea and in severe cases, organ failure and unstoppable bleeding.
Seven people have died, Dahn said, since Liberia reported its first cases of hemorrhagic fever last month, raising the previous toll by three.
Of the deaths, two are laboratory-confirmed Ebola cases— a woman who died in hospital in the northern county of Lofa, and her sister who visited her.
The sister was allowed to return home to Monrovia and was pronounced dead in the morning at hospital in nearby Margibi county, where the authorities were monitoring her, her family and others with whom she may have had contact.
Ebola can be transmitted to humans from wild animals, and between humans through direct contact with another’s blood, feces or sweat. Sexual contact, or the unprotected handling of contaminated corpses, can also lead to infection.
No treatment or vaccine is available, and the World Health Organization said on Wednesday the fatality rate in Guinea so far stands at 65 percent, with the virus mainly hitting adults aged 15 to 59.
Liberia’s health authorities said it is monitoring 44 people thought to have come into contact with confirmed or suspected Ebola patients.