This comes after an outbreak of Ebola in west Africa earlier this year. The outbreak began in Guinea in December last year, but was only detected in March. It has since spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Earlier this month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Ebola epidemic in west Africa as an international health emergency. The epidemic broke out in Guinea in March this year, and has since spread to Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. There have been isolated cases around the world.

The 2014 outbreak has seen 1 350 deaths as of 18 August, and CNN reports that WHO officials believe that this is the deadliest Ebola outbreak to date.


What is the Ebola virus?
Ebola virus disease, known commonly as just Ebola, is a disease caused by the contraction of the Ebola virus. The disease is named after the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). There are five species of the Ebola virus, four of which cause the Ebola virus disease. Each species is named after the region where it was first identified.

The Ebola virus (EBOV), formerly known as the Zaire ebolavirus, is the virus responsible for the recent Ebola outbreak in west Africa. The first EBOV outbreak occurred in August 1976 in Yambuku in the DRC. EBOV has an average fatality rate of 83% in adults over 27 years of age.

The Sudan ebolavirus (SEBOV) was also first contracted by humans in 1976 in Sudan. It was originally considered to be the same as EBOV. The most recent SEBOV outbreak was in May 2004 and to date it has a 54% fatality rate.

The Côte d’Ivoire ebolavirus (CIEBOV), also know as the Tai ebolavirus, was first discovered in chimps in the Côte d’Ivoire’s Tai forest. Scientists found that the chimps had contracted the disease after eating infected western red colobus monkeys. CIEBOV has only affected one person. One of the scientists working with the chimps contracted the disease but responded to treatment and recovered fully after six weeks. The Bundibugyo ebolavirus broke out in Uganda in 2007. The last person infected with the disease was discharged from hospitality in January 2008. This strain has a 34% mortality rate.

The Reston ebolavirus (REBOV) has been found in non-human primates in Pennsylvania and Texas in America and in Siena in Italy. In all cases, the animals had been taken to the country from the Philippines, where they had been infected. REBOV has not caused disease in people to date.


How can the Ebola virus be contracted?
The virus is initially transmitted to people who come into contact with the blood, secretion or any other bodily fluid of animals. It then spreads through the population through human-to-human transmission. You can contract the disease through broken skin or through the mucus membranes by coming into content with the blood, secretion or other bodily fluid of someone who has it. You can also contract the disease by coming into contact with the dead body of someone who had it. The virus can be transmitted by semen up to seven weeks after the man has recovered from the disease.


What are the signs and symptoms of Ebola?
If you contract Ebola, you would initially experience fever, weakness, muscle pain, headache and a sore throat. You would then experience vomiting, diarrhoea, rash and impaired liver and kidney function. You could also bleed externally or internally.

It can take from two to 21 days for you to experience symptoms after being infected with the virus.


How is Ebola diagnosed?
Before you are diagnosed with Ebola, the doctor must rule out the possibility of other viral haemorrhagic fevers such as malaria, typhoid fever, shigellosis, cholera, plague, meningitis and hepatitis.

Once this has been done, several tests are conducted to confirm whether you have Ebola. There is no specific treatment for the virus. Intensive care is provided, with focus placed on treating the symptoms. Ways of treating Ebola, as well as vaccines, are being tested.


How long is someone with Ebola infectious?
An Ebola patient is infectious for as long as their bodily fluids contain the virus, which could be for up to 60 days.

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