How Bad is Ebola in Africa?

Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are in the grip of the worst outbreak of Ebola virus in history. According to the latest figures from the Centre for Disease Prevention, 672 people have died so far from 1201 cases. That number is likely to have already risen.

To put that in context, the biggest previous outbreak of the disease saw 224 deaths from 425 cases, and there have only been 2,300 deaths from all previous outbreaks of the virus. This outbreak, which has been growing since March, concerns the deadliest form of the Ebola virus,Zaire ebolavirus.

Named after the country which saw the first outbreak of the disease in 1976, the Zaire strain kills on average 78 per cent of those who contract it. It is mainly found in tropical Central and West Africa and can have up to a 90 per cent mortality rate.

“This is the largest outbreak of this disease to date, and it’s clear it is not under control, ” said Dr Brian McCloskey, director of global health at Public Health England.

The health body has issued an urgent warning to doctors in England to watch for signs of the lethal disease. Phillip Hammond, the foreign secretary, will chair an emergency Cobra meeting on Wednesday to discuss the outbreak.

The Ebola virus first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks – in Nzara, Sudan; and in Yambuku, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The outbreak in DRC was in a village near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.

It is introduced into the human population through close contact with the sweat, blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines.

Early symptoms are similar to those of flu but are followed by severe vomiting and diarrhoea, and eventually internal and external bleeding.

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Dan Mullin is an active writer and editor for the Pluto Daily who covered the 2014 Ebola Outbreak. Mullin attended the Wake Forest School of Medicine before leaving to pursue his lifelong science goal of allowing humans to live forever via a computer/brain transfer.