A 2 year-old boy from Guinea appears to be what we call in our business the “Index Case” for the West African Ebola epidemic. In epidemiology, an Index Case is the first documented case of an illness that spreads to others. The 2 year-old appears to have been infected by playing in a hollow tree that housed a colony of free-tailed fruit bats (Mops condylurus).
A group of scientists made the connection on an expedition to Meliandou, the boy’s tiny village of 31 houses. They took samples and collected and analyzed a host of evidence and concluded that the boy contracted Ebola from the bats or their droppings in the hollow tree. The team’s findings are published in EMBO Molecular Medicine this week.