Ebola virus virion

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that three new cases of Ebola have been confirmed in Liberia within three months of the country being declared free from the disease.

Liberia is one of the three West African countries hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak, with the other two being Guinea and Sierra Leone. More than 11,000 people have died of the disease since December 2013, with the majority being from these three countries.

The first of three new patients was a ten year old boy from Paynesville, a suburb east of the capital Monrovia.

According to officials, two direct family members have also tested positive.

Along with the boy, all six members of his family and other people at high-risk have been taken to an Ebola treatment unit in Paynesville.

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Liberia Minister of Health Bernice Dahn was quoted as saying: "The hospital is currently decontaminating the unit. All of the healthcare workers who came into contact with the patient have been notified.

"We know how Ebola spreads and we know how to stop Ebola, but we must remain vigilant and work together."

Initially, Liberia was declared Ebola-free in May, but new cases emerged in June resulting in two deaths. The country was declared free of the virus in September.

"We know how Ebola spreads and we know how to stop Ebola, but we must remain vigilant and work together."

After confirmation of new cases, Liberia has placed 153 people under observation as it seeks to control the latest outbreak.

Liberia chief medical officer Dr Francis Kateh was quoted by Reuters as saying: "We have three confirmed cases and have listed 153 contacts, and we have labelled them as high, medium and low in terms of the risk."

In November, Sierra Leone was declared free of the virus, while Guinea is yet to be declared Ebola-free.

In October, Johnson & Johnson started a clinical trial to evaluate the safety and immunogenicity of its under development Ebola prime-boost vaccine regimen in Sierra Leone.

The study is designed to evaluate the vaccine regimen’s safety and immune response within the general population of Sierra Leone, including vulnerable groups such as adolescents, children, and people with HIV.

Image: Electron micrograph of an Ebola virus virion. Photo: courtesy of CDC/Cynthia Goldsmith.