The original patient in the current Ebola outbreak in Western Africa was a two-year boy in Guéckédou in Guinea, medical researchers told the New York Times. The boy died of the disease, which has a fatality rate of up to 90%, on Dec. 6, but not before it infected his mother, his three-year-old sister and his grandmother. How did the virus spread? Relatives who attended their funerals took it back home with them to their villages.
This sad story is how the worst Ebola outbreak in history started. The village of Guéckédou also has the luck of being close to the borders of Sierra Leone and Liberia, making the spread of the virus even easier. The disease has also struck Nigeria. More than 960 people have died so far, out of 1,700 or so cases of the virus. But Medecins sans Frontieres told the BBC that official numbers were “under-representing the reality” of the situation of Liberia. “We are definitely seeing the whole health care system that is falling apart,” the MSF’s coordinator said. Five of the biggest hospitals in the capital Monrovia have been closed for more than a week.
The situation in Western Africa is a humanitarian catastrophe, and the World Health Organization has declared the outbreak an international public health emergency. The WHO said that there should be “no general ban on international travel or trade” but the initial spread of Ebola from a small village to four countries shows just how hard it is to contain diseases like this in the first place.