MONROVIA, Liberia — Seven people believed to have the Ebola virus have died in recent days in the first deaths reported in the Liberian capital since the outbreak began, a health official said Tuesday.
Deputy Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah said that raises to 16 the number of people believed to have died from the virus in the West African country. Four of the deaths were confirmed by tests to be Ebola, he said.
The deaths, recorded since June 8, are worrisome because no new cases had been confirmed in Liberia in about two months. Nyenswah said the new wave of cases was believed to have begun on May 30. The virus, which causes severe bleeding and high fevers, has continued to ravage neighboring Guinea in that time and has spread to Sierra Leone.
"The first phase of the epidemic was contained," said Nyenswah. "But because of proximity to Guinea and Sierra Leone, we did not declare outbreak over."
Other officials have previously downplayed the significance of the virus jumping borders, saying that it is to be expected since people travel and trade frequently across the borders of the three countries.