July 3, 2014
It began with a just a handful of cases in Guinea in March. But it spread quickly to two other countries and is now the deadliest outbreak of Ebola virus on record.
At least 759 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have been infected by Ebola since its symptoms were first observed four months ago, according to the World Health Organization. 467 of them have died. That’s a 61.5 percent mortality rate.
The WHO says “drastic action is needed” to contain the virus, which has spread from rural areas to cities in West Africa. It has dispatched teams of experts to the region and is holding talks this week with the health ministers from 11 countries about what to do next.
Why does Ebola generate such fear?
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) describes Ebola as “one of the world’s most deadly diseases.”
“It is a highly infectious virus that can kill up to 90% of the people who catch it, causing terror among infected communities,” it says.
There is also no vaccination against it.
Of Ebola’s five sub-types, the Zaire strain — the first to be identified — is considered the most deadly.
The WHO said preliminary tests on the Ebola virus in Guinea in March suggested that the outbreak there was this strain, although that has not been confirmed.