Ebola Outbreak Traced To Toddler’s Contact With Infected Fruit Bat

The largest-ever outbreak of Ebola was triggered by a toddler’s chance contact with a single infected bat, a team of international researchers have concluded after a major investigation of the origins of the deadly disease now ravaging Guinea, Liberia, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.

A group of 17 European and African tropical disease researchers, ecologists and anthropologists spent three weeks talking to people and capturing bats and other animals near the village of Meliandoua in remote eastern Guinea, where the present epidemic surfaced in December 2013.

They discovered that the disease was passed from colony to colony of migratory fruit bats until it reached Guinea. Their research is expected to be published in a major journal in the next few weeks.

Early studies suggested that a new strain of Ebola had emerged in west Africa but, according to epidemiologist Fabian Leendertz, it is likely the virus in Guinea is closely related to the one known as Zaire ebolavirus, identified more than 10 years ago in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Leadership Reports.

Leendertz said the likelihood was that the virus had arrived in west Africa via an infected straw-coloured fruit bat. These bats migrate across long distances and are commonly found in giant colonies near cities and in forests.

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