By Umaru Fofana
FREETOWN (Reuters) - A body has tested positive for Ebola in Sierra Leone, 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 organization Public Health England came back positive in the Tonkolili district east of the capital Freetown, the spokesman said late on Thursday.
Neither the gender nor the age of the deceased person was released. 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 Nov. 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 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.
(Reporting by Umaru Fofana, additional reporting by Tom Miles and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)