Dead Sierra Leone patient tests positive for Ebola

Freetown: A body has tested positive for Ebola in Sierra Leone, a spokesman for the Health Ministry said, just hours after the World Health Organisation 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.

A health worker injects a man with an experimental Ebola vaccine in Guinea in March 2015.
A health worker injects a man with an experimental Ebola vaccine in Guinea in March 2015.  Photo: AP

Reuters reported that the victim was a 22-year-old female student who had recently travelled. It was not clear how many people the patient had been in contact with before the virus was detected.

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 Organisation 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 on Friday confirmed the new Ebola case in Sierra Leone but did not immediately provide details or say whether there was a risk of others being infected.

While it 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.