Ebola Outbreak: How the virus spreads

Published on: Aug 10, 2017fb-roundtwitter-roundemail-round
Ebola Outbreak: How the virus spreads imageGetty Images

The story

We recently experienced the

largest Ebola outbreak in history

. Until 2014, the worst outbreak on record had killed about 430 people. During the most recent crisis –which lasted from 2014 to 2016 –

more than 11,000

What is ebola?

It’s a virus that

starts out like the flu

(think: fever, headache), but can get scarier later on (think: internal and external bleeding, hemorrhaging).

Until late 2016

, there was no vaccine

and there’s still no specific cure. Without access to the right health care, the mortality rate can be

up to 90%

How do you get it?

By coming into contact with the

bodily fluids

of an infected person or animal. Health officials say Ebola is only contagious when someone is showing symptoms. That’s why health workers who treat Ebola patients wear head-to-toe protective gear. The virus can be in a person’s body for up to 21 days

Where does ebola come from?

The first known case was in

1976 in Zaire, Africa

. The virus gets its name from the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo...for no reason other than the researchers saw it on a map and thought it sounded like a good name for a disease. Scientists think Ebola comes from

fruit bats

, and people get the virus by coming into contact with things that have the bats’ bodily fluids on them. The 2014 outbreak is believed to have started at the end of 2013 when

a baby in Guinea

got Ebola from an infected animal. Then, the virus spread

mostly in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone

. In those countries, health workers dealt with very limited resources, but also a stigma. The disease is seen as so

dangerous and shameful

How did it come to the US?

A man named

Thomas Eric Duncan

flew from West Africa to the US in September 2014. Just a

few days earlier

, Duncan was in Liberia and helped transport a pregnant woman with Ebola to the hospital for treatment. He started showing symptoms after arriving in the US, was treated in isolation in a Dallas hospital, and passed away. Two health care workers who treated him also contracted the virus, raising lots of questions over whether the US was prepared to handle treatment. The US dealt with a total of

four cases

Is the crisis over?

For now. The World Health Organization

declared an end

to the international Ebola emergency in 2016. They also said that we can expect occasional flare-ups from time to time. The international community is hoping that

a successful vaccine

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