The Ebola virus outbreak of 2014 has been a major headline in the news lately. From its origin in Guinea to its spread to other neighboring countries in Africa, the threat of a global pandemic has raised public concern. We’ve heard the worrisome quotes from the World Health Organization:
“This outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it.”
“[The outbreak was] caused by the most lethal strain in the family of Ebola viruses.”
“The virus seemed to be spreading in ways never seen before.”
The best way to fight fear is with information. What are the symptoms of Ebola? How do we stop it? Is it a real concern for the US or other first-world nations?
Here’s everything you need to know about the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak. Jump to page 2 for an updated timeline of the 2014 outbreak.
What is Ebola? How do I catch it?
First identified in 1976, Ebola is a disease in humans caused by the Ebola virus, which has historically killed between 50 and 90 percent of those infected. You can catch Ebola by being in contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person or animal, living or dead. Outbreaks tend to begin when a person handles the carcass of a dead animal – generally a monkey or fruit bat – infected with the virus. The virus itself is not airborne, so its potential to spread is considered low.
Ebola Symptoms, Treatment, & Prevention
Early symptoms of Ebola start two days to three weeks after infection and include fever, sore throat, muscle pains, and headaches. Later symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, decreased functioning of the liver and kidneys, and bleeding.
There is no cure for Ebola, nor any specific treatment options. Due to the vomiting and diarrhea, giving patients fluids is important in order to avoid dehydration and to replenish their electrolytes, and administering anticoagulants can help control bleeding. However, these measures treat the symptoms, not the disease.
Researchers have been working on a vaccine for years, and some experimental drugs have recently shown positive results, but the only surefire countermeasure to Ebola is to avoid coming in direct contact with anyone infected. Those who are infected should be isolated, and anyone who must deal with an infected person should wear protective clothing – including masks, gloves, gowns, and goggles – and be sure to sterilize equipment and wash their hands.
Ebola Risks in the US
The United States has laws that allow quarantine of those infected with Ebola, and quarantine is the most effective way of preventing the spread of the disease. As long as proper quarantine measures are enforced, the risk of Ebola becoming a widespread concern in the US or other first-world nations is minimal. Ebola is a greater problem in poor, isolated areas of the world that lack modern medical equipment and hospitals, and haven’t been educated toward proper hygienic practices.
How Many Deaths Have Been Attributed to the Ebola Outbreak?
As of August 31, 2014, the total number of suspected cases and deaths worldwide is 3,706 and 1,847, respectively. These numbers are based on data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
Check back in the future for the latest figures as the outbreak develops.
From Guinea to Nigeria:
Timeline of the 2014 West Africa Ebola Virus Outbreak
Check back in the future for updates as this outbreak develops.
September 2, 2014: WHO announced that the unrelated outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has 53 possible and confirmed cases and 31 deaths.
August 29, 2014: Liberia cancels all “shore passes,” disallowing anyone from disembarking from a ship at sea ports.
August 29, 2014: The CDC issues a Level 2 travel warning for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
August 29, 2014: First case of Ebola confirmed in Senegal.
August 28, 2014: The WHO reports an overall case fatality rate estimate of 52% and that up to 20,000 individuals may be infected before the outbreak is stopped.
August 26, 2014: The CDC issues a Level 3 (the highest level) travel warning for Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia and a Level 2 travel warning for Nigeria until February 27, 2015.
August 26, 2014: WHO shuts down two of its laboratories in Sierra Leone after a health care worker there is infected with Ebola.
August 26, 2014: Cases of Ebola reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo believes to be unlrelated to the West Africa outbreak.
August 26, 2014: WHO states that an unprecedented number of health care workers have been infected with Ebola. More than half of the 240 infected workers have died.
August 26, 2014: British Airways extends its ban on flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone until December 31.
August 24, 2014: Unconfirmed reports of dogs feeding on the corpses of Ebola victims spreads panic in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia.
August 24, 2014: Ebola confirmed to have spread to the Democratic Republic of Congo. A quarantine zone is established in the region.
August 24, 2014: First confirmed British citizen to contract the virus in Sierra Leone is transported to the Royal Free Hospital in North London.
August 24, 2014: One of three infected African doctors dies, despite being treated with experimental drug ZMapp.
August 22, 2014: The Ivory Coast closes its borders to the infected countries and bans all flights to and from Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.
August 22, 2014: Ebola spreads to the last infection-free region in Liberia.
August 21, 2014: The two infected American aid workers are discharged from Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital, having recovered from the virus and no longer considered contagious.
August 21, 2014: South Africa bans all travelers from the three Ebola-hit West African nations.
August 18, 2014: Up to 17 infected Ebola patients reported missing after a clinic is raided in Liberia.
August 14, 2014: Number of cases of Ebola confirmed in Nigeria rises to 11.
August 12, 2014: Hospitalized Spanish aid worker dies in Spain from the Ebola virus, despite being given experimental ZMapp drug.
August 9, 2014: WHO reports suspect 1,848 cases of Ebola and attribute 1,013 deaths to the disease. 1,176 cases and 660 deaths have been laboratory confirmed to be Ebola.
August 9, 2014: Nigeria waives regulations limiting the international shipment of biological samples out of the country; supports the use of non-validated treatments without prior review and approval by a health research ethics committee.
August 8, 2014: Guinea closes its borders with Sierra Leone and Liberia.
August 8, 2014: India places its airports on high alert and steps up surveillance of all travelers entering the country from Ebola-affected regions.
August 8, 2014: WHO declares the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.
August 7, 2014: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reported to have permitted the testing of experimental drug TKM-Ebola on Ebola patients.
August 6, 2014: Saudi Arabia advises residents to avoid traveling to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea until further notice.
August 6, 2014: The CDC moves its Ebola response to Level 1 – the highest on a scale from 1 to 6.
August 6, 2014: Reports suspect 1779 cases of Ebola and attribute 961 deaths to the disease.
August 6, 2014: Nigeria confirms two Ebola deaths.
August 6, 2014: Liberia declares a state of emergency.
August 6, 2014: Infected Spanish aid worker is sent to hospital in Spain.
August 5, 2014: A Spanish aid worker is confirmed to have been infected in Liberia.
August 5, 2014: British Airways suspends all flights to and from Liberia and Sierra Leone until the end of the month.
August 5, 2014: A British woman is reported to have been exposed to Ebola while traveling in West Africa; she volunteers for quarantine, though shows no symptoms of the virus.
August 4, 2014: Experimental drug ZMapp shows promising initial results in two human Ebola patients.
August 2, 2014: Two infected American aid workers are flown from Liberia to Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital for treatment. They are the first patients of the outbreak in the US.
August 2, 2014: Spain issues travel warnings for all affected countries.
July 31, 2014: Germany issues travel warnings for all affected countries.
July 31, 2014: The CDC warns against nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
July 30, 2014: Sierra Leone declares a state of emergency and deploys troops to quarantine epidemic hot spots.
July 29, 2014: Leading Ebola doctor Sheik Umar Khan from Sierra Leone dies in the outbreak.
July 27, 2014: Liberia closes its borders, with the exception of a few crossing points where screening centers are established. Worst-affected areas in the country are quarantined.
July 25, 2014: WHO reports first Ebola case in Nigeria.
July 25, 2014: Police break up demonstrations outside a hospital treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone.
July 23, 2014: Liberia increases its response to the outbreak.
July 17, 2014: Suspected number of Ebola cases in Sierra Leone totals 442, overtaking Guinea and Liberia.
June 30, 2014: The Philippines temporarily stops sending workers to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
June 20, 2014: Suspected number of Ebola cases in Sierra Leone totals 158.
June 18, 2014: New infections in Guinea come to a standstill. A fatality rate of 64% is debated by different sources.
May 25, 2014: First Ebola cases confirmed in Sierra Leone.
April 23, 2014: 142 deaths have been linked to the Ebola outbreak. The fatality rate is reported to be 59%.
April 1, 2014: Saudi Arabia stops issuing visas for the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca to those from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
March 31, 2014: The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) send a five-man team to Guinea to lend assistance.
March 31, 2014: First Ebola cases confirmed in Liberia.
March 29, 2014: Senegal suspends border travel with Guinea indefinitely.
March 23, 2014: The World Health Organization (WHO) reports the outbreak.
March 19, 2014: The outbreak is officially acknowledged by the Guinean government; Ebola is suspected. By this point, dozens have died in eight Guinean villages and suspected cases are turning up in neighboring countries, including Liberia and Sierra Leone.
December 6, 2013: The outbreak begins in Guinea when a 2-year-old boy dies a few days after falling ill. Within the following weeks, several members of his family die, all exhibiting symptoms of Ebola. Funeral attendees fall ill and carry the disease to other villages.