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Once more, United States health officials are reporting that a contagious bacterial infection might have been the cause of at least some cases in a mysterious outbreak in Liberia.

Reuters reported that the bacteria can cause meningitis, a dangerous brain infection, as well as blood infections. 31 illnesses were reported including 13 deaths during the outbreak in Greenville, Sinoe County, which followed a funeral service.

The outbreak was later thought to be Ebola, the deadly disease that struck Liberia and took caused the death of thousands of citizens. It was later ruled out by Health Ministry officials based on evidences from initial testing.

The germ is spread through close contact with someone who's infected, so other people are being monitored, health officials said. Nearly all the victims had attended a funeral in southeastern Liberia in West Africa.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tested samples from four of the deceased people and found the bacteria, called Neisseria meningitidis (ye-SEER-ee-ah men-in-JIT-id-iss). The bacteria is to blame for a "meningitis belt" in sub-Saharan Africa that passes close to Liberia.

The bacteria lives in the throat. It's spread through kissing, living with or having other close contact with an infected person. The agency disclosed the results Monday, after sharing them with Liberian health officials.

However, the CDC statement did not specify whether the Liberians had developed meningitis, which infects the brain and spinal cord, or a blood infection. But it is said that both can be fatal, and death can occur in only a few hours. The bacteria can cause the kind of mental confusion seen in patients in the Liberia outbreak. Most of the cases were linked to an April 22 funeral in the coastal town of Greenville in Sinoe County.

 

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