Five things you should know about Ebola

Since March 2014, more than 2600 people across Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have died in what is now the deadliest outbreak of Ebola ever. More than 5300 cases of the disease have been reported, with the World Health Organisation warning that the virus was now accelerating at a faster rate than ever before. As the virus continues to spread, here are some things you probably don’t want to know, but probably should. RA’EESA PATHER reports.

1. There’s a whole lot of Ebola
To date, there are five known strains of Ebola that exist. They are: Ebola-Zaire, Ebola-Sudan, Ebola-Côte d’Ivoire, Ebola-Reston, and Ebola-Bundibugyo. Ebola-Zaire is the deadliest and it is this strain that is now sweeping through West Africa. Some researchers, however, argue that the outbreak virus is a newer strain of Ebola.

2. It’s not curable
So far, doctors have been unable to find a cure for Ebola, and it has become one of the most deadly viruses in Africa with a death rate of up to 90%. Currently, health officials report that the fatality rate in the three West African nations is at 60%.

3. You shouldn’t get too close to people with symptoms
Two American health aid workers became infected with the virus while treating patients in West Africa, causing concerns that the virus may spread in the US but it’s unlikely. The infected Americans were treated and subsequently released. In order for Ebola to pass from one human to another, there has to be contact with infected body fluids or objects that have been infected with body fluids. Animals indigenous to West, East and Central Africa, such as monkeys or fruit bats, can infect humans too.

4. The West African outbreak is different to previous ones
Usually, Ebola spreads through scattered communities in rural areas. This outbreak, however, has moved swiftly through densely populated urban areas of three African nations, as well as rural villages and local distrust of health workers has made containing the virus increasingly difficult. In Guinea, Doctors Without Borders have spoken about the “unusual” experience, saying villagers are known to run away at the sight of Western medical staff, shouting, “Ebola, Ebola!”

5. It’s getting worse
The West African outbreak is without a doubt, the worst outbreak of Ebola ever. With the death toll rising, Liberia has shut down its borders and Sierra Leone has declared a state of emergency. On Thursday, the UN Security Council declared the outbreak as a threat to peace and security in West Africa. UN Sec. General Ban Ki Moon, said the “gravity and scale of the situation now require a level of international action unprecedented for a health emergency”.

The head of the World Health Organisation, Margaret Chan, has said previously that while the outbreak has been “catastrophic” the virus can be controlled and the public is not at high risk. Meanwhile the South African department of health has said it is taking “every precaution” and has put all ports of entry into the country on high alert.

But the question remains: how soon can the spread of Ebola be stopped?

– Image via Wikimedia Commons

Editor’s note: This article was updated on September 20, 2014