LIVING

Ebola's Patient Zero Likely A Small Boy In Guinea: Study

12/30/2014 03:43 EST | Updated 03/01/2015 05:59 EST
NEW YORK, N.Y. - A team of researchers think they have pinpointed how the Ebola epidemic in West Africa started — with a small boy playing in a hollowed-out tree where infected bats lived.

The researchers explored an area in southeastern Guinea where the 2-year-old boy fell ill a year ago and died. He later became the first known case in the epidemic.

The scientists didn't find the Ebola virus in the bats they tested. But they came away believing that the boy got it from bats that had lived in the hollow tree.

The Ebola epidemic is the worst in world history, blamed for killing nearly 8,000 people across West Africa this year.

The new study, led by researchers at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, was published Tuesday in EMBO Molecular Medicine.

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  • Livia Saavedra
    Dgenebou Soumah, 20, Coyah Prefecture
    "Her fiancé came to see her when she came home, but she doesn’t know if they will get married. Despite the death of her mother, her aunt, and her niece, she is full of life."
  • Livia Saavedra
    M’Balia, Coyah Prefecture
    "M’Balia’s husband died in September. She is now facing extreme poverty and cannot afford to feed her children every day. As a widow with two children, she has no chance of remarrying."
  • Livia Saavedra
    Fanta and Sydia Bangoura
    "Only the little girl was infected with the disease. The children haven’t realized that they are now orphans. The problem of caring for children affected by the disease is becoming urgent."
  • Livia Saavedra
    M’Balia Sylla with her father-in-law
    "Her father-in-law has always supported her. It took a lot of persuasion from the community health workers to convince her to seek treatment. She works at the nursing station at the KM 36 military barracks. Ever since she received her certificate of discharge from the military, her community has been more present."
  • Livia Saavedra
    Kanta, Conakry
    "Kanta is from a Wahhabi family. Despite her unease and the horrible stigma she suffers, she wants to speak up about her experience."
  • Livia Saavedra
    Bengali Souma, 27
    "He lost his job and has to care for his younger brother and sister. He will need to be very successful in order to reintegrate into his community, otherwise they will continue to think that he is cursed."
  • Livia Saavedra
    Nyanbalamou Gabou, 24
    "Nyanbalamou Gabou is a medical student. He raised awareness about the disease with his neighbors before being infected. As a result, he wasn’t rejected by his community when he returned home."
  • Livia Saavedra
    Mamadou Sadio Bah
    "Mamadou Sadio Bah is a doctor in a health center. Ever since he got sick, he has been working to dispel myths about the disease."
  • Livia Saavedra
    Fanta Camara, 25
    "She works at the Ebola Treatment Center in Donka. She lost her position as a teacher because of her illness."
  • Livia Saavedra
    Fanta Cherif
    "Fanta Cherif remains hidden in her house. Her friends don’t call her any more and her studies have been put on hold by her illness. The after-effects of the virus lasted for a long time in her case. You can recover from Ebola but still experience symptoms for up to seven weeks."
  • Livia Saavedra
    Fatoumata Binta
    "Ever since her brother and five members of her family died, Fatoumata Binta has had to take care of her younger brother. Her neighbors have closed the shutters facing her house. She is thinking about working at the Ebola center in Donka."
  • Livia Saavedra
    "Crazy rumors about the Ebola epidemic are making it even more difficult for health workers to do their jobs. In the absence of treatment, the sick turn to their traditional healer, which contributes to the spread of the disease."
  • Livia Saavedra
    "People living in Coyah or at the KM 36 military base (shown above), who are infected with Ebola have to be treated at the Ebola Treatment Center in Donka Hospital in Conakry."
  • Livia Saavedra
    "Two of the main epicenters for the disease are in Nzerekore in Forest Guinea and in Conakry (shown above)."
  • Livia Saavedra
    "The sanitary conditions, the lack of access to running water, and poverty are preventing the population from fighting the Ebola outbreak."
  • Livia Saavedra
    "A prevention poster in Conakry. The government’s delay in responding to the crisis and the 24 billion Guinean francs in cuts from the health budget at the beginning of the outbreak contributed to the overall scale of the epidemic."