The Ebola virus has so far claimed over 4,000 people in West Africa and is spreading fast making 2014 the year the epidemic has affected most countries.
Here are facts about the killer virus:
- The Ebola virus is named after the Ebola River, near where the virus was discovered in 1976 in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
- Since 1976, Ebola outbreaks have occurred in DRC, Gabon, South Sudan, Ivory Coast, Uganda, South Africa (through an ex-Gabon resident), Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Nigeria.
- Transmission requires direct contact with body fluids like blood, semen and sweat from an infected person or contaminated objects such as medical equipment.
- In human beings, it has an incubation period of 2 to 21 days with an average of 8 to 10 days before the first symptoms manifest. (See WHO fact sheet here.)
- Symptoms of Ebola include; high fever (greater than 38.6 C, or 101.5 F), severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal (stomach) pain, and unexplained haemorrhage (bleeding or bruising).
- Victims are not contagious until the symptoms manifest.
- Those surviving infection may still have Ebola virus in their bodies and remain contagious for several months after infection, even when symptoms are no longer present.
The percentage of infected individuals who do not survive generally exceeds 50 per cent, a dangerously high rate among infectious diseases. (Read more on this here.)
- There is no specific therapy or vaccine against Ebola approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
For more than a decade, the US government has funded research and development of specific therapies (such as antiviral drugs) and vaccines against Ebola for military force protection and domestic biodefense purposes. (Check here.)