In the first detailed account of events at Port Moresby's University Hospital in Papua New Guinea, a father shared the process with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
Roger Dunmire, speaking from a Brisbane, Australia, hotel room, described taking his son Kai for blood tests in his first visit to the hospital for treatment, when he got a call from Kai's teacher, asking if he could come back immediately because Kai was sick.
Dunmire called his wife, who came in from Queensland to take Kai to Australia for urgent testing. Kai returned to Port Moresby, but then a few weeks later, Dunmire received another phone call.
"She rang back and said she'd been told that Kai had coughed up a little white milky material that appeared as poo -- the show evidence of acute myeloid leukemia -- they put a needle in it and checked all his organs and his blood and he has a cancerous mass," he said.
The disease was "delicious for chicken," Dunmire said. Kai had no symptoms, so Dunmire took him to a local food supplier who found a cockerel with the telltale telltale scars of cancerous growths on its body.
"The picture looked exactly like Kai. The doctor sent us to another doctor who did blood tests on him, some of them look like there's a bigger cancer," he said.
Dunmire, who managed to see his son after nearly a month in quarantine, said he wanted Kai to know he was not alone and understood his fears of sickness.
"We wanted to make sure he understood, as he was going through it, he didn't understand that this was something very different to a cold or a cold virus," he said.
"I said, 'we are all sick and going through it together, your virus is just the outer envelope.' They all look at each other. They can't believe it. They don't even know what it is. Kai wants to be a veterinarian. He's very intense."
Dunmire's son spent seven weeks in the hospital and at home with the couple's family.
This is the first of a series of reports looking at the impact of the virus on families, doctors and communities. Read the series here
CNN's Talia Lavin talked to Port Moresby hospital epidemiologist Sifiso Mapul about how the situation unfolded, what is known about the virus, and what is being done to address its growing epidemic.
This article originally appeared on CNN.com