The images are horrifying – a virus which spreads through blood, feces, even sweat, and causes profuse bleeding and necrosis (death of body tissue). 90% of those who become infected die – and now an outbreak is ripping through the region of Guinea in Africa infecting nearly 100 people thus far.
This is the first time that such a virus has been identified in Guinea. This particular strain of the virus is initially contracted via contact with contaminated rodent feces and is then spread among humans through bodily fluids, such as sweat, saliva and blood. Authorities say the virus, which has reached epidemic proportions, is spreading rapidly and infecting medical personnel first which is hindering containment of the viral outbreak. The outbreak has been going on in the southeastern region of Guinea for about 30 days. The World Health Organization (WHO) has sent a team and 30 tons of medical supplies in an attempt to slow down the outbreak.
First discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976, there are no known treatments or vaccines for Ebola.
Update 3/26/14: Scientists in the country have banned the consumption of bat soup, grilled bat, and other local delicacies after discovering them to be the initial infection vector. Citizens were also told to avoid consuming rats and monkeys. Medical experts have long believed animals to be natural hosts of the Ebola virus (hey harbor the virus but show no symptoms). Bats in particular have the ability to host zoonotic viruses, viruses that can readily jump from one species to another.
Update 4/4/14: The Ebola outbreak has spread beyond Guinea’s borders. Mali is on alert over the deadly Ebola virus after three suspected cases were reported near the border with Guinea. A BBC correspondent says there are tight controls on people entering the capital, Bamako, from the border area. He says thermal-imaging cameras are screening passengers at the airport in case they have a fever. Meanwhile, an Air France plane which landed in Paris from Guinea was quarantined for two hours on Friday morning after the crew suspected a passenger was infected with Ebola. Six people have died in Liberia, out of 12 suspected cases, according to the local health authorities.
Update 9/20/2014 The Ebola virus arrived in the United States. Thomas Eric Duncan, who worked as a driver in Liberia, flew from Liberia to Brussels on Sept. 19. He continued to Washington’s Dulles Airport, before flying to the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport on a United Airlines flight, arriving on Sept. 20. Duncan first felt sick on Sept. 24 and went to the hospital in Dallas. But staff didn’t suspect Ebola then, so he went home. He was brought back to the hospital by ambulance on Sept. 28 and it was determined that he had been infected with the Ebola virus.