We are currently experiencing the largest Ebola outbreak in history. Until 2014, the worst outbreak on record had killed about 430 people. Now, thousands have died, mostly in West Africa.
It’s a virus that starts out like the flu (think: fever, headache), but things can get scarier later on (think: internal and external bleeding, hemorrhaging). It doesn’t have a vaccine and there’s no specific cure. Without access to the right health care the mortality rate can be up to 90%.
By coming into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or animal. Health officials say Ebola is only contagious when someone’s showing symptoms. That’s why health workers who treat Ebola patients look like this. The virus can be in a person’s body for up to 21 days before symptoms start to show and it starts to become contagious.
The first known case was in 1976 in Zaire, Africa. The virus gets its name from the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo...for no reason other than the researchers saw it on a map and thought it sounded like a good name for a disease. Scientists think Ebola comes from fruit bats, and people get the virus by coming into contact with things that have the bats’ bodily fluids on them. This outbreak is believed to have started late last year when a baby in Guinea got Ebola from an infected animal. Now, the virus has spread mostly in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. In those countries, health workers are not only dealing with very limited resources, but also a stigma. The disease is seen as so dangerous and shameful, it's made patients scared to come forward.
Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who had recently been in contact with a pregnant woman with Ebola, flew from West Africa to the US in September ‘14. Duncan started showing symptoms a few days after arriving, was treated in isolation in a Dallas hospital, and passed away. Two health care workers who treated him also contracted the virus, raising lots of questions over whether the US was prepared to handle treatment. Since then, at least one other person in the US has contracted the virus.
Ebola is a virus that knows no borders. Public health officials say helping West Africa is the only way to make sure an outbreak doesn’t happen anywhere else. A small group of people have developed Ebola outside of West Africa. Inside West Africa? More than 10,000.