Cestus Tarpeh, a spokesman for the health department in Margibi County, told Agence France-Presse that they are still waiting for additional blood tests but that two people who had physical contact with the boy had contracted the virus.
The teen became sick on June 21, according to the World Health Organization, who added that health officials have identified at least 102 people who had contact with the boy. That number is expected to rise, the organization said.
The reasons why so many people are believed to have had contact with the teen is that he sought medical care at multiple facilities, including seeking the help of a traditional healer and had extensive contact with people within the community, Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. At one visit, he was treated for malaria and discharged.
It is also unclear how he contracted Ebola in the first place. So far, there is no indication that he traveled outside of Liberia, the CDC spokesman added.
Ebola symptoms are generally difficult to identify because they are similar to symptoms of other diseases, including malaria and other forms of hemorrhagic fevers that are endemic in West Africa.
It remains a possibility that the 17-year-old could have contracted the virus from an animal source. Bats are believed to be able to carry the Ebola virus without showing signs of illness.
Tolbert Nyenswah, Liberia’s deputy health minister, told Front Page Africa this week that the situation is “under control” and that the quick detection of the case meant showed that the system is working as designed.
After the teen’s death on Sunday, he was given a safe burial that same day and a swab sample from the body was taken and tested for Ebola twice. Those types of test have become standard practice in Liberia for any deaths where patients reported symptoms similar to Ebola.
“One thing that we can all agree on is that Liberia is in a much better position now than they were a year ago at detecting Ebola much faster and being able to move quickly to prevent it from spreading,” Skinner said.
A team of over two dozen disease specialists from the CDC have remained in Liberia even after the epidemic was declared over. Half a dozen of those people immediately traveled to Margibi County after the Ebola diagnosis was confirmed. Several more have traveled to Liberia from the U.S. in recent days.
Yet the case has also raised some red flags.
According to the AFP, health officials in Margibi County said that a traditional healer who treated the boy is now on the run.
In the last 18 months of the epidemic in West Africa, public health officials have strongly discouraged people from seeking treatment from traditional healers. They have also encouraged healers to report sick people who show symptoms of the disease.
Neighboring countries, Guinea and Sierra Leone, also continue to battle a persistent number of Ebola cases. For the past five weeks in a row, the two countries have reported 20 and 27 cases each week.
Because of the porous borders between the three countries, as long as Ebola infections continue in the region, the risk of a resurgent outbreak will remain, the WHO warned after it declared Liberia officially Ebola free in May.
Since the outbreak began in December 2013, there have been 27,443 cases of Ebola infection in Guinea, Libera and Sierra Leone and 11,207 died.
Of the three countries, Liberia had been the hardest hit. More than 4,800 people died after contracting the virus.
At the peak of Liberia’s epidemic, between 300 and 400 new cases emerged nearly every week.
The government deployed a series of emergency efforts to clamp down on the spread of the virus — including controversial ones like implementing quarantines in neighborhoods of Monrovia and mandatory cremation in an effort to eliminate unsafe burials that help spread the virus.
The country’s already beleaguered health system suffered too — 375 health workers became infected and 189 died.
The outbreak was officially declared over on May 9, and much of the country was finally able to return to normal life.
But these new cases have prompted fear and a renewed sense of caution in the country. Buckets of bleach water for hand washing are appearing once again on the streets of Monrovia.
And the village where the boy was found dead has been quarantined — food and water are being air dropped into the community the help halt this latest outbreak.
“We heard on radio that Ebola has turned around to come back to Liberia,” said Samanta Blamo, 55, according to AFP. “This is why we are bringing our Ebola buckets. We were still washing our hands but only few buckets were here. Now everybody has one again, just like the way it was in 2014.”
[This post has been updated.]