The World Health Organization on [July 24] declared the official end of the latest outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which tallied 54 cases, including 33 deaths. But a study published…in the Lancet Infectious Diseases highlights just how tenuous such declarations can be when it comes to Ebola.
The study, led by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traced a puzzling cluster of Ebola cases in Liberia to a mother who appeared to have had a stealthy, undiagnosed infection for more than a year. The cluster came to light when the woman’s 15-year-old son arrived at a hospital in Monrovia on November 17, 2015—more than two months after the country had been declared free of the disease in the wake of a massive outbreak that began in 2013.
Such a scenario isn’t unheard of for Ebola. Earlier studies have found that the virus can lurk in men’s semen for up to 18 months after a victim recovers. It has also been spotted in the vaginal fluids and breast milk of asymptomatic women.
While researchers say such poorly understood, stealthy cases are rare, they still “highlight the risk of Ebola virus disease flare-ups even after an outbreak is declared over.” They urge continued vigilance and surveillance.
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