Health

Researchers: Ebola 'Patient Zero' Was A 2-Year-Old Boy In Guinea

| by Jared Keever

Health workers in Africa say they have tracked down the first person believed to have contracted the deadly Ebola virus in the continent’s most recent outbreak of the disease. 

Researchers with The New England Journal of Medicine say they tracked the first instance of the recent outbreak to a rainforest village in southern Guinea called Meliandou. CNN reports the so-called patient zero was a 2-year-old boy named Emile Ouamouno.

Though it is unclear how young Emile contracted the disease, his surviving family members and neighbors told researchers he died Dec. 6, 2013, after four days of running a fever, vomiting and passing black stools. 

Health officials believe the virus is transmitted to humans through contact with bats, gorillas, chimpanzees and monkeys.

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Later that month Etienne Ouamouno, the boy’s father, also lost his daughter, Philomene, to the disease, as well as his wife. Philomene was 3 years old. 

Etienne Ouamouno said that Ebola also killed the children's’ grandmother. 

Suzanne Beukes, a reporter with The Daily Maverick, travelled to the village — which is now free of Ebola — to interview the surviving father and survey the conditions in the community.

“Emile liked to listen to the radio and his sister liked to carry babies on her back,” Ouamouno told her. 

The village chief, Amadou Kamano, said the Ebola outbreak took its toll on community members. Villagers there survive mostly by selling their spinach, wheat, rice, corn and bananas in nearby towns.

“Nobody wants to buy our products,” he said of life after Ebola, adding that panic caused many to lose most of their belongings.

“People burned everything out of fear … now we are even poorer than we were before,” Kamano said. 

Fassou Isidor Lama, a United Nations child protection officer, said the disease has caused other problems as well. In situations where parents are killed but leave behind surviving children, Lama said there are few people willing to take in the kids. 

“People flee their villages, and abandon their families and their children. They reject the infected children and the other infected family members,” he explained. “So we are working to provide direct support for the children but also to accompany the family to avoid stigmatization of the families.”

The Associated Press reports Ebola is estimated to have killed about 5,000 people in this nearly year-long outbreak. About 10,000 cases have been reported, most of them in West Africa.

Sources: CNN, The Daily Maverick, Yahoo News (AP Story)

Photo Source: YouTube: UNICEF