Ebola Virus Patient Zero Identified as a Two-Year-Old Boy
Researchers working on tracing the Ebola virus back to patient zero think that they have identified him, a two-year-old boy who died on December 6, 2013. The toddler fell ill while in a village in southeastern Guinea called Guéckédou. This small village is like a three nation intersection, as it sits on the border of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. All three of these places have been heavily effected by the Ebola virus outbreak.
Scientists think that because the disease started in Guéckédou, it had an easy entry path into the three nations in West Africa that have suffered so many deaths between them. There have now been 1,779 cases of Ebola reported and 961 people have died from the deadly disease.
The week following the death of the two-year-old, the boy’s mother died, and shortly afterwards so did his grandmother. It was not recognized as Ebola virus at the time, but because the boy and the other members of his family had vomiting, diarrhea and fever, scientists believe the deadly virus started here, and that the toddler was patient zero. It is currently unknown how he might have contracted the disease, contaminated fruit or needles are a couple of suggestions that scientists looking into the mystery have put forward.
At the funeral of the elderly grandmother, mourners came from neighboring areas. Two of them took the virus with them when they left Guéckédou and returned to their own villages. Shortly after this, a health worker carried the virus to yet another village where he died, as did his doctor. In this time, both the health worker and the doctor infected more of their own relatives and the spread continued to other towns.
By March, a total of eight Guinean communities had been effected and dozens of people had died already. Liberia and Sierra Leone were also experiencing suspected cases of the Ebola virus. All of these regions are in recovery from political dysfunction and war, and as a result are some of the poorest areas of the world. A hospital director in Guéckédou explains that people were scared to come to work, they felt fear and took a lot of persuasion to come to the hospital.
By the end of March, aid organization Doctors Without Borders announced the Ebola virus outbreak and labeled it as “unprecedented.”They warned that the outbreak would be hard to fight as the disease had spread to so many different places already.
The outbreak is currently considered to be out of control and getting worse. Health officials believe that the death toll will be higher than that of all other previous Ebola outbreaks combined. The World Health Organization has said that they need thousands more health workers in order to affectively fight the disease and stop it spreading further.80 health workers have already died from the Ebola virus as they have attempted to help others, 145 have been infected. Most consider that the situation will take months to be brought under control. Health officials are also concerned that due to the amount of resources that will be focused on fighting Ebola, deaths from other diseases such as malaria will rise.
Political experts say that there will be even greater unrest to follow as the disease will further destabilize the local governments. People are scared and they are panicking. Last Saturday, Guinea officials decided to close the borders between themselves and Sierra Leone and Liberia in an attempt to stop the virus from traveling between them.
One of the factors that fueled the spread of Ebola in West Africa was that until now, the disease was unknown to these parts of the world. It was not recognized fast enough, and when it was there was fear and mistrust from local people who thought the doctors who came to help them where actually causing harm. Scientists have identified who they believe to be patient zero as a two-year-old boy, but they do not yet know how this little boy caught the Ebola virus.
By Tabitha Farrar