Ebola GuineaThe U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that the current Ebola (EVD) outbreak in West Africa is the largest ever documented. As of June 25, 599 cases and 362 deaths (case-fatality rate of 60%) have been reported in the three countries. The largest previous outbreak occurred in Uganda during 2000–2001, when 425 cases were reported with 224 deaths (case-fatality rate of 53%). The current outbreak is the first in West Africa and the first time that Ebola virus transmission has been reported in a capital city.

Ebola viral disease is characterized by the sudden onset of fever and malaise, myalgia, headache, vomiting, and diarrhea. Among EVD patients, 30% to 50% have hemorrhagic symptoms.

The first two Ebolavirus species were recognized in 1976 during simultaneous outbreaks in Sudan and Zaïre (now Democratic Republic of the Congo). Since 1976, there have been more than 20 EVD outbreaks across Central Africa, with the majority caused by Ebola virus (species Zaïre ebolavirus), which historically has demonstrated the highest case-fatality rate (up to 90%).

The more alarmist news outlets are saying it is out of control…CNN in particular. Is it? Could it spread? “The big question is whether sick people are going to get on a plane and spread the disease. That depends largely on two factors: How many people are infected, and the degree of travel from the outbreak area. The volume of travel from this region is limited. Furthermore Ebola doesn’t pass easily from person to person. Transmission requires very close contact with bodily fluids, like blood or mucus and you need prolonged contact with somebody.

Still…it is unnerving!