The New York Times reports that Patient Zero in the recent Ebola outbreak has been found. He was a "a 2-year-old boy," from Guéckédou, a village bordering Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The disease then just grew from there, killing family members first, then spreading through funeral mourners.
Past Ebola outbreaks have been snuffed out, often within a few months. How, then, did this one spin so far out of control? It is partly a consequence of modernization in Africa, and perhaps a warning that future outbreaks, which are inevitable, will pose tougher challenges. Unlike most previous outbreaks, which occurred in remote, localized spots, this one began in a border region where roads have been improved and people travel a lot. In this case, the disease was on the move before health officials even knew it had struck.
Also, this part of Africa had never seen Ebola before. Health workers did not recognize it and had neither the training nor the equipment to avoid infecting themselves or other patients. Hospitals in the region often lack running water and gloves, and can be fertile ground for epidemics.
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