What is the Ebola virus?

REX Features
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What you need to know about the deadly Ebola virus

The World Health Organization has said that the current outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in West Africa is the largest and deadliest ever. See gallery

The World Health Organisation has said that the current outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa is the largest and deadliest ever, with nearly 900 confirmed deaths from 1,600 confirmed cases.

Per-Anders Pettersson
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What is Ebola virus disease?

Formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, Ebola virus disease is a severe, infectious illness with a death rate of up to 90%. It is most common in remote parts of Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests.

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Who is at risk?

Health workers and the family members of infected people are at most risk. People who come into contact with the bodies of victims or infected animals have also been known to contract the disease.

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When was the disease discovered?

Ebola first appeared in 1976, with two outbreaks: one near the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the other in a remote part of Sudan. 280 died.

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What are the symptoms?

Initially it is almost flu-like with a sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, sore throat and headache.

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How does the disease develop?

The disease goes on to cause vomiting, diarrhea, rash, kidney and liver failure and, in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

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How do people become infected?

The virus is spread from animals into the human population. This happens through close contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.

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How is the disease spread among humans?

Ebola can spread within the community from direct contact with the blood, or other bodily fluids or secretions of infected people.

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When should someone seek medical care?

If a person has been into an area where there is a known outbreak or has come in contact with someone known or suspected to have Ebola and they begin to have the symptoms, immediate medical care is essential.

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What is the incubation period?

The time from infection to onset of symptoms is anywhere from two to 21 days. Patients are not contagious during the incubation period, but become contagious once symptoms begin.

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What is the treatment?

There is no known cure for Ebola. However, with intensive support care and intravenous rehydration some patients can recover.

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Can Ebola be prevented?

Although vaccines are being tested, none are currently available. Raising awareness of how the disease is spread and the protective measures that are needed are the only ways to reduce illness and deaths.

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What can be done to prevent infection?

Initially the disease is contracted through contact with infected animals or carcasses, so avoid high risk animals such as fruit bats, monkeys, pigs and apes.

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What can be done to limit infection during an outbreak?

Exposure to the virus can be controlled by protective measures and clothing in hospitals, community gatherings or at home, including washing hands carefully, and by restricting the movement of animals that carry the virus.
 

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Is it safe to travel during an outbreak?

The WHO closely monitors the situation during outbreaks and recommends travel and trade restrictions if necessary. Because of the way the disease is spread, the risk of infection for travellers is generally considered to be very low, but do seek medical attention if you may have come into contact with the disease and begin to show symptoms.

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How Ebola spread in West Africa: March 2014

This was the area affected by the Ebola outbreak in March 2014.

The current outbreak of Ebola, one of the world’s deadliest viruses, is the worst on record. It spread from a remote forested area in southern Guinea to the country’s seaside capital of Conakry, and later to neighboring countries.

Click through to see how the virus has spread rapidly.

 

Sources: World Health Organization, CDC, AP Reports

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How Ebola spread in West Africa: April 2014

Sources: World Health Organization, CDC, AP Reports

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How Ebola spread in West Africa: May 2014

Sources: World Health Organization, CDC, AP Reports

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How Ebola spread in West Africa: June 2014

Sources: World Health Organization, CDC, AP Reports

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How Ebola spread in West Africa: July 2014

Sources: World Health Organization, CDC, AP Reports

AP: P. Santilli, Kevin S. Vineys
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How Ebola spread in West Africa: August 2014

Sources: World Health Organization, CDC, AP Reports

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