The virus plaguing West Africa, which has killed at least 660 since the worst-ever outbreak began there in January, is one of the deadliest known to man and can kill victims within days.
New data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) released on Friday, and dating from July 20 – before the announcement of the death in Nigeria – said the death toll had risen to 660.
The UN health agency said the number of cases of Ebola, first identified 38 years ago in the Democratic Republic of Congo, then Zaire, had risen to 1,093.
It said 28 news deaths were recorded between July 18 and July 20. Thirteen were in Sierra Leone, 11 in Liberia and four in Guinea, which had previously borne the brunt.
Forty-five new cases were recorded over the same period.
Although Guinea recorded the lowest number of new cases – five – it still has the highest death toll.
In total, Guinea has seen 314 fatalities and 415 cases since the outbreak began in January.
Sierra Leone’s case-count has now overtaken Guinea’s, however. It reported 12 new cases, taking its total to 454, with 219 deaths.
Liberia reported 28 new cases, lifting its total to 224. Of those, 127 have been fatal.
Ebola is one of several viruses responsible for haemorrhagic fever.
No medicine or vaccine exists for the tropical virus, named after a small river in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Five “species” of Ebola have been identified so far, and have been named Bundibugyo, Sudan, Zaire, Tai Forest and Reston.
The first three are particularly dangerous, with fatality rates of up to 90 per cent.
The Reston species has also been identified in China and the Philippines, but no associated deaths have been reported in those countries to date.
Ebola causes severe fever and muscle pain, weakness, vomiting and diarrhoea – in some cases shutting down organs and causing unstoppable bleeding.
It is a so-called filovirus, transmitted through contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person.
Experts say that while extremely virulent, the virus can be contained because it kills victims faster than it spreads.
The incubation period between exposure and the first symptoms varies from 2 to 21 days.
The virus has been known to spread at burials where mourners touch the body, but doctors and nurses have also fallen ill after failing to take adequate precautions.
Even testing blood specimens for the disease presents “an extreme risk”, the WHO has warned, and is done only in the strictest containment conditions.
The virus’s natural host in Africa is thought to be a species of rainforest bat, while another concentration has been found in the western Pacific region.
People have contracted the virus after handling both dead and living chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines.
For now, the only approach is to isolate patients and promptly bury the dead, says the WHO.
Hospital staff should use gloves, masks and goggles, and disinfect rigorously.
“Several potential vaccines are being tested but it could be several years before any are available,” according to a WHO factsheet.
“A new drug therapy has shown some promise in laboratory studies and is currently being evaluated.”
That doesn't necessarily mean he will die, though. The death rate during this outbreak has been roughly 60 percent. And it's an unfortunate blow in a long battle that doesn't look like it's slowing down.
The current outbreak has killed 632 people and infected about 1,000
Sierra Leone is one of several countries battling the current outbreak, which is unprecedented both in the number of cases and in its geographic scope. It's now hit three countries: Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia.
And the virus — which starts off with flu-like symptoms and often ends with horrific hemorrhaging — has infected about 1,048 people and killed an estimated 632 since this winter, according to the numbers on July 17 from the World Health Organization.
Ebola is both rare and very deadly. Since the first outbreak in 1976, Ebola viruses have infected thousands of people and killed about one-third of them. Symptoms can come on very quickly and kill fast:
So why is Ebola doing so much damage right now? Here's a primer on what's going on.
Why is Ebola back in the news?
Where is the current Ebola outbreak?
Why is this particular outbreak so deadly?
There are also social and political factors contributing to the current disaster. Because this is the first major Ebola outbreak in West Africa, many of the region's health workers didn't have experience or training in how to protect themselves or care for patients with this disease.
MANY OF WEST AFRICA'S HEALTH WORKERS DIDN'T HAVE TRAINING DEALING WITH EBOLA
On June 23, the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders sent out a distress call. As the only aid organization treating people with Ebola, the group said it was "overwhelmed," that the epidemic was out of control, and that it couldn't send workers to new outbreak sites without getting more resources.
In many ways, how well a country can deal with an Ebola outbreak comes down to basic health-care practices and public education. With enough resources poured into the effort, people should be able to contain this outbreak. So far, however, these countries are struggling.
Does Ebola really make people bleed from their eyes?Yes. Bleeding from orifices is one of the more unusual and memorable symptoms of viral hemorrhagic fevers like Ebola. In later stages of the disease, some people bleed from the eyes, nose, ears, mouth, and rectum. They may also bleed from puncture sites if they've had an IV.
External bleeding can be one of the main symptoms that can help people realize they're dealing with a case of Ebola, since other signs — first fevers and headache, then vomiting and diarrhea — can be caused by any number of illnesses. Internal bleeding can happen, as well.
But it doesn't always happen. For example, this study of a 1995 outbreak in found external bleeding in 41 percent of cases. And bleeding didn't correlate with who survived and who didn't.
What actually kills people is shock from multiple organ failure, including problems with the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system.
Symptoms come on abruptly after an incubation period of 2 to 21 days. And people generally die between day 6 and 16 of the illness.
Why is Ebola so deadly?
How hard is it to catch Ebola?Ebola is relatively hard to catch. Unlike measles or the flu, it's not spreadable over the air through casual contact.
In order to get Ebola, someone must touch the blood or bodily fluids (including sweat, urine, and semen) of a person or animal who's infected (alive or dead). People can also catch it through indirect contact with victims' fluids, such as via bedding or medical equipment.
People generally aren't infectious until they get sick.
This limited transmission ability is one of the main reasons why Ebola outbreaks can often be stopped within weeks or months. What it takes is public education and good health-care hygiene like patient isolation, sterilization procedures, and the use of gloves and masks.