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New Ebola case emerges in Sierra Leone as woman's body tests positive

A man walks past a poster reading 'We should not push our children away because they survived Ebola' – part of Sierra Leone's Ebola campaign in the city of Freetown

A WOMAN'S body has tested positive for Ebola in Sierra Leone, an official said, the day after the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak over in west Africa.

Tests on a 22-year-old woman who died earlier this month in Sierra Leone's north proved positive for the virus, said Francis Langoba Kellie, spokesman for the Office of National Security.

She came from the Northern Kambia District and went to the Northern Tonkolili District for medical attention, he said. Authorities are tracing her contacts and have dispatched teams to the area for investigations. Certain areas will be quarantined, Mr Kellie added.

The WHO declared an end to the deadliest Ebola outbreak ever on Thursday after no new cases emerged in Liberia. It had been at least two weeks since Ebola had been seen in Guinea or Sierra Leone. The three countries were most affected by the epidemic that began two years ago.

"Our level of preparedness and response capabilities are very high and there is no cause for concern," said Mr Kellie. "We encourage the public to continue to practise the hygiene regulations which were in force during the period while Ebola was raging and the emergency regulations are still in force."

Nearly 4,000 people had died before Sierra Leone was declared free from transmission of Ebola on November 7. Guinea marked that day on December 29.

Liberia was first declared free of the disease in May but new cases emerged twice - forcing officials to restart the clock. Thursday marked its third time being declared free from transmission.

Ebola has killed more than 11,300 people, mostly in west Africa, since it emerged at the end of 2013.

The WHO declares Ebola transmission over when a country goes through two incubation periods - 21 days each - without a new case emerging. Countries are then placed on a 90-day heightened surveillance.

Ebola is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of people who are sick or bodies of the dead.

The WHO warned that flare-ups of Ebola were still possible.

Bruce Aylward, the WHO's special representative for the Ebola response, said: "We are now at a critical period in the Ebola epidemic as we move from managing cases and patients to managing the residual risk of new infections. We still anticipate more flare-ups and must be prepared for them."

The WHO says flare-ups "are likely the result of the virus persisting in survivors even after recovery".

Of particular concern is the fact that Ebola is present in the semen of some male survivors up to a year later. The WHO said Ebola can "in rare instances be transmitted to intimate partners".

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