Experts at the World Health Organization suspect the Ebola outbreak in West Africa may have been sparked by survivors from the 2014 epidemic.

Guinea has reported at least 18 cases of Ebola since the previous outbreak, which lasted until 2016, Reuters reports.

During a press briefing on Friday, Dr. Mike Ryan, a top emergency official at the WHO, claimed the outbreak could be the result of the virus lingering in the bodies of those who were previously infected.

Due to the genetic sequencing found, Ryan revealed the virus was passed from human to human as opposed to an animal to human, which is typically how an Ebola outbreak starts.

“This (outbreak) is unlikely based on genetic sequencing to be linked to a fresh zoonotic reservoir and much more likely to be linked to persistence or latency of infection in a human subject,” he explained.

“We are not dealing, as far as we understand right now, with a breach of the species barrier.”

Ebola can be passed on to humans from monkeys or bats. Although survivors may appear to be in good health, the virus can continue to live in parts of the body, including the eyes, testicles, and breasts. It can also be transmitted through semen.

Although 18 cases of Ebola were reported in Guinea, Ryan stated the WHO sent over 30,000 doses of the vaccine to the country, CTV reports.

The doctor stated that a majority of those infected with the virus are able to rid it from their systems within six months. However, there is a small number of survivors who continue to carry the virus but do not infect others “except in very particular circumstances.”

Guinea's fight to stamp out a resurgence of Ebola can start after over 11,000 vaccine doses arrived in the country Guinea's fight to stamp out a resurgence of Ebola can start after over 11,000 vaccine doses arrived in the country Photo: AFP / CELLOU BINANI