The Ebola virus disease (EVD) was first discovered in Zaire, today the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 1976. The virus takes its name from the Ebola river as the first cases of the virus were reported in an area along this river. Around the same time, the Ebola disease was also identified in parts of Sudan, which today belong to South Sudan. These first two known outbreaks caused 318 cases and 280 deaths in Zaire, and 284 cases and 151 deaths in Sudan. Thus, the Zaire Ebola virus showed a significantly higher fatality rate than the Sudanese strain.
When infected with the Ebola virus, within two to 21 days people start to show symptoms that are similar to other tropical diseases or to influenza: fever and sweating, weakness, headache, body aches and pains, then vomiting and diarrhea. Five to seven days after the first symptoms start, about half of all Ebola patients develop internal bleeding. Ebola is assumingly contracted through human contact with animals, especially via the consumption of bush meat like apes and bats. However, little is known about how the virus changes or adapts to humans. Once it is settled within human bodies, the virus is easily spread through blood and other bodily fluids.
The latest outbreak in West Africa is the largest Ebola epidemic so far. As of March 2016, this outbreak had resulted in almost 29,000 cases and over 11,300 deaths. The most affected countries included Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and the worst hit areas remain under heightened surveillance. The first victim of this epidemic died in late December 2013 in Guinea. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported a major outbreak for the region in March 2014. Five months later, it declared the outbreak an international public health emergency. The West African outbreak involves the Zaire Ebola virus, the deadliest of all Ebola virus strains. By the end of 2014, further related Ebola cases had been reported in Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, and even Spain, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
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