Liberia’s health minister disclosed on Monday (May 8, 2017) that the deadly mystery illness that has so far claimed some thirteen lives in the West African country could be linked with meningitis after medical samples from four victims tested positive for a type of the disease.

According to Dr. Bernice Dahn, seven specimens from the deceased tested positive for Neisseria meningitis, a particularly contagious type of bacteria.

“Based on these initial results from the CDC Atlanta (U.S. Center for Disease Control), we believe that we are dealing with a probable outbreak of meningitis in Sinoe, which spread to Montserrado and Grand Bassa counties,” she added, she also reiterated calls for calm over the situation.

The authorities are, however, investigating options for mass vaccinations against the illness, characterized by swelling of the membranes in the brain and spinal cord. Further laboratory analysis is under way.

Meningitis is an infections disease characterized by inflammation of the meninges (the tissues that surround the brain and spinal cord). It is usually caused by a bacterial infection, symptoms include headache, stiff neck, fever and nausea.

So far a total of 31 cases of the supposed mystery illness has been reported, including 13 deaths in an outbreak linked to the attendance of a religious leader’s funeral. Liberia’s chief medical officer, Dr. Francis Kateh, confirmed to the BBC two weeks ago that the deaths were not Ebola-related from initial test results.