Facing the deadliest and most geographically widespread outbreak of Ebola, public health officials are addressing concerns that this strain may turn into a worldwide killer. According to CBC News, most experts agree that there is an extremely low risk of this turning into an outbreak outside of Africa. Cultural practices and circumstances in Africa are the main reason why it has spread rapidly there, but not elsewhere.
The current outbreak began in March and affects Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. It is also the first Ebola outbreak in all three countries. Public health officials have warned that there is a real risk of the epidemic spreading beyond the 60 locations in which patients have already been identified.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been more 600 cases of the disease and 360 deaths in the three affected countries since March 2014. One of the most challenging components of the outbreak is that the disease is being transmitted in a variety of settings. Normally, a quarantine approach would help control the outbreak. However, with multiple, simultaneous locations for Ebola cases, it is impossible to quarantine all.
The WHO states that Ebola is a severe acute viral illness often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. There is an up to 90 percent fatality rate with Ebola, largely because there is no vaccine and currently no treatment.
Image: Wellcome Images
Did you like this article? Then you'll really want to sign up for my newsletter. It's delivered several times a week and packed with science news and analysis. Subscribe Here.