An unprecedented outbreak of the Ebola virus has health officials scrambling to contain it; before the epidemic has a chance to spread worldwide, where officials worry it could become the most deadly pandemic the world has ever seen.
What started earlier last month in Guinea, has now been confirmed in two more countries; Liberia and Sierra Leone. Ebola, which first appeared in 1976, in one of the world’s most deadly viruses with a mortality rate of 90%. While previous outbreaks stayed relatively confined, because they occurred primarily in remote villages in Africa, this new outbreak is showing up in areas that have officials very concerned.
What’s most concerning to World Health Officials, is the fact that this current outbreak in being seen in places where the disease has never been seen. What was once confined to remote villages in Africa has now spread from the remote regions of southern Guinea to the country’s seaside capital Conakry, where some 2 million people live. Even more concerning is the disease may have already spread outside the capitol, with confirmed cases now popping up in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Previous to the spread outside of Guinea’s capitol city, health officials were already warning that the arrival of Ebola in Conakry could spell disaster, as the city is home to an international airport where tourists from around the world routinely travel. This has many health officials warning that with an outbreak so close to an international airport, the opportunity for a pandemic strain to spread is greater than ever before.
Why is Ebola such a High Concern?
This virus is probably one of the scariest out there, with an incredibly high death rate and symptoms that make the disease look like something straight out of a horror film.
The Ebola virus causes severe hemorrhagic fever in patients, in most cases leading to horrific deaths as patients — raging in pain and hallucinations — slowly bleed to death both internally and externally. Its initial symptoms — high fever, headache and weakness — can mimic malaria; but unlike malaria has a mortality rate of up to 90 percent. The deterioration of the victim is very quick; going from initial infection to death typically within five days.
The Ebola virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and can then spread through the human population by human-to-human transmission.
No specific treatment or vaccine is available, and there is no cure for the disease. Despite so-called advances in medicine, this outbreak is being handled similar to the 1918 influenza pandemic; it’s being fought with soap, clean water, protective gear, and quarantine.
Past pandemics, like the 1918 flu Pandemic that killed an estimated 50 million people, took months to spread. A pandemic outbreak in today’s world would likely travel much quicker, and could cause far more deaths than previous pandemics – especially with something like the Ebola virus. With the world more connected than any time in human history, the opportunity for a pandemic strain to spread is greater than it’s ever been.