Science and Tech
What You Need to Know About the Ebola Virus Outbreak of 2014

CJ Miozzi | 13 Aug 2014 15:00
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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.

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