TIME Infectious Disease

Ebola Outbreak Likely Started With One Person

Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone
A young volunteer wears special uniform to sterilize the bodies of people, died due to the Ebola virus, ahead of their burials in Kptema graveyard in Kenema, Sierra Leone on August 24, 2014. People work for 6 dollars per a day in burial and sterilizing works in Kenema where the infection of the virus is mostly seen. Mohammed Elshamy—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Findings from new genetic analysis

The Ebola virus outbreak that’s ravaging West Africa probably started with a single infected person, a new genetic analysis shows.

This West African variant can be traced genetically to a single introduction, perhaps a person infected by a bat, researchers report in the journal Science.

Their study paints a remarkably detailed picture of how the virus spread from Guinea to Sierra Leone and Liberia in an outbreak that’s taken the lives of more than 1,500 people — including five of the researchers who worked on the report.
One thing is clear — it is definitely being spread by people, not by animals repeatedly infecting people, the researchers say.

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