The current Ebola epidemic has killed almost 1,000 people, and doctors think they have finally identified the origin of the outbreak: a 2-year-old boy.
The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, identifies patient zero as a boy who died in December in southeastern Guinea. His mother, sister and grandmother all died shortly after the toddler's death. They exhibited symptoms of fever, vomiting and diarrhea.
Their healthcare worker also contracted the disease. As well as two mourners at the grandmother's funeral.
The doctors said they are not sure how the boy could have contracted the disease, but they suspect it could be from handling raw fruit bat meat or being injected with an unsanitary needle.
Epidemiologists predict that this outbreak may surpass all previous Ebola outbreaks combined and will take months to control. Unlike previous outbreaks, this one has been persistent.
They suggest that the disease was able to spread quickly, with the accessibility of travel, before health officials knew what they were facing.
Additionally, the disease was unknown in West Africa and healthcare workers didn't know what to look out for. Villagers lashed out at health care workers, accusing them of bringing the disease with them.
"Early on in the outbreak, we had at least 26 villages or little towns that would not cooperate with responders in terms of letting people into the village, even," said Gregory Hartl, a spokeman for the World Health Organization.
He said the outbreak had three waves and the latest has been the biggest. Samaritan's Purse and Doctors Without Borders did most of the work on the outbreak. Ken Isaacs, a vice president of Samaritan's Purse, said it is a testament to the lack of serious attention the outbreak was given.
Initially, doctors suspected Lassa fever but the illness was worse than the endemic, viral disease. The tests confirmed that it was indeed Ebola.
Thanks to mobility, it is harder to isolate infected patients, trace their contacts, isolate those and repeat until all the cases are taken care of, but in this case it was harder, people insisted they were fine or lied and took Tylenol to hide a fever.
In these regions, sanitation was also an issue, gloves were a luxury and the staff was struggling to even clean their hands between patients.