A 30-year-old Liberian woman died from Ebola on her way to a Monrovia hospital, global health officials said Friday, marking the West African country’s third flareup of the disease since it was cleared of the virus in May.
The World Health Organization said lab tests confirmed the presence of Ebola and that investigators are tracking down people who may have come in contact with the woman, who died Thursday.
Ebola killed more than 11,000 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea during the height of the epidemic from December 2013 to late 2015, though sporadic cases have kicked off a cycle of “clearing” affected nations, only to reset the clock when new cases pop up.
WHO clears a country of Ebola if 42 days, or two of the virus’ 21-day incubation periods, pass since the last known patient tests negative for the virus.
Liberia had been cleared of the virus on Jan. 14 after a mid-November flareup, and neighboring Guinea is investigating a cluster of new cases in one of its southern regions.
WHO officials said West Africa should expect additional cases, because the virus is able persist in survivors.
Despite lingering cases, WHO this week said the Ebola epidemic is no longer a public health emergency of global concern, citing West Africa’s ability to identify and isolate small outbreaks.
Yet the Obama administration has pointed to recent cases in its push for emergency funding to fight the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness that’s been linked to an uptick in serious birth defects in Latin America.
President Obama is locked in a stalemate with congressional Republicans over his $1.9 billion request, with GOP leaders saying the administration should spend leftover Ebola funds before it asks for new money.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies say they do not want to shortchange efforts to fully stamp out Ebola, so new money is needed.