EBOLA is back. As of April 14th the virus had infected 168 people in Guinea, in west Africa, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). At least 108 have died. In neighbouring Liberia, six are known to have had the disease, with more cases suspected. Nearly 400 remain under observation. Airports are taking travellers' temperatures and Senegal's border with Guinea was closed. With a mortality rate of up to 90%, ebola is terrifying. Is it possible to contain an outbreak?
Humans have no immunity against the disease, which is thought to be native to bats. The virus is transferred in bodily fluids, most commonly blood. Once inside a host it incubates for between two days and three weeks before causing flu-like symptoms. With little to stop it, ebola attacks the whole body at once, triggering a cascade of immune responses that lead to haemorrhage, organ failure and often death. The virus was discovered in 1976 when two strains hit Sudan and what was then Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), infecting a total of 602 people and killing 431. The worst single outbreak hit Uganda in 2000, infecting more than 400 people, half of whom died. But until now the virus had never been seen as far west as Guinea or Liberia. Health-workers in Guinea did not recognise the disease at first.
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