Freetown: A woman who died of Ebola this week in Sierra Leone potentially exposed at least 27 other people to the disease, raising the possibility of further transmission as a regional epidemic appeared nearly over, according to an aid agency report.
The victim, a 22-year-old female student from Tonkolili district named Mariatu Jalloh, became ill at the beginning the year and died on January 12 while living in a house with 22 people. She had sought medical attention at a local hospital but was treated as an outpatient.
The body was tested positive for Ebola, a spokesman for the Health Ministry said, just hours after the World Health Organization said transmission of the virus in West Africa had ended.
Two swab tests carried out on the deceased person by British health organisation Public Health England came back positive in the Tonkolili district east of the capital Freetown, the spokesman said late on Thursday.
The tests reinforce concerns about flare-ups of the virus that has killed more than 11,300 people since 2013 in the world's deadliest outbreak of Ebola.
Almost all the victims were in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, but all three countries had been declared free of the virus: Sierra Leone on November 7, Guinea late last year, and Liberia on Thursday.
The World Health Organization warned on Thursday that despite the absence of known transmissions of the disease in over two months, there could still be cases of Ebola in the region. This was because survivors can carry the virus for months and pass it on.
The WHO has said that another major outbreak of the disease is unlikely, it reiterated its message of caution.
"WHO stresses ongoing risk of flare-ups due to the re-emergence of the virus throughout 2016 due to persistence of the virus in the survivor population," a spokesman said.