Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


First Ebola victim may have been infected by bats

31 December 2014, 09:02

New York - A team of researchers think they may have pinpointed how the Ebola epidemic in West Africa started - with a small boy playing in a hollowed-out tree where infected bats lived.

The researchers explored an area in southeastern Guinea where 2-year-old Emile Ouamouno fell ill a year ago and died. Health officials believe he was the first case in the epidemic, which wasn't recognised until spring.

The Ebola virus wasn't found in the bats they tested so they weren't able to prove the source, the scientists reported in a study published on Tuesday. But they believe the boy got Ebola from the furry, winged creatures that had lived in the hollow tree.

"As a scientist, I can say it's a possible scenario," said one of the study's authors, Fabian Leendertz of the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin.

An outside expert said the researchers' work was thought-provoking.

"They didn't find smoking guns" but perhaps broadened the thinking about what sparked the epidemic, said Stephen Morse, a Columbia University infectious disease expert.

The Ebola epidemic is the worst in world history, blamed for killing nearly 8 000 people across West Africa this year, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

'Rain of bats'

The epidemic's exact origin has never been determined, but the virus is thought to spread to people from some sort of animal. Many experts have suspected some species of fruit bat, though some wonder if West Africa's epidemic started through another animal - like a chimpanzee or small antelope - that was perhaps infected by bats and then eaten by people.

The researchers saw no signs that Ebola had affected larger animals around the boy's small village of Meliandou. But they learned that a large colony of small, smelly bats with long tails lived in a hollow tree near the boy's home.

Villagers told the researchers that the tree caught fire in March, causing a "rain of bats" to pour out of the tree. The bats were destroyed or gone before the researchers arrived in mid-April - a bad break for the researchers, Leendertz said.

The researchers tested 169 bats, including fruit bats and a few from the species that lived in the tree. None tested positive for Ebola, but that doesn't disprove the hypothesis because experts think the virus may dwell in only a small minority of bats. The researchers are trying to collect more of the bats for testing.

The study was published on Tuesday in EMBO Molecular Medicine.

Also on Tuesday, Liberia's government announced it will allow families to bury Ebola victims in a special plot of land instead of requiring that the bodies be cremated so as not to spread the virus.

Highly contagious

Ciatta Bishop, head of Liberia's national Ebola burial team, said the government has secured 25 acres where Ebola victims can now be buried. More than 2 000 suspected Ebola victims have been cremated since the cremation decree was ordered at the height of the crisis in Liberia several months ago.

The corpses of Ebola victims are highly contagious, and many of those who washed or touched bodies before the burials contracted the disease.

The cremation decree is highly unpopular in Liberia, where funeral traditions are carefully followed and are considered a sacred obligation to the deceased.

- AP


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...