Ebola is a disease that can infect both humans and primates resulting in a large number of fatalities all around the world. Ebola is a viral ailment caused by four strains of the ebolavirus genus. Evidence indicates that the natural host for the ebolavirus is the fruit bat and three species, in particular, is thought to have the highest concentration of the virus in the world. The research also indicates that despite having stores of the virus, the bats do not exhibit any symptoms of the disease. Scientists are investigating the possibility of other organisms being hosts of the virus. The first recorded instance of the ebolavirus was in 1976 when the disease affected the nations of Sudan and Zaire. The primary means individuals get infected with Ebola is interacting directly with body fluids from infected individuals or interacting with contaminated objects. Ebola's incubation period generally lasts anywhere from two days to nearly three weeks with patients then exhibiting symptoms such as rashes and muscular pain. Significant outbreaks of Ebola typically occur within African countries.
Ebola Afflicted Countries
In 1976, Sudan became the world's first nation to have individuals suffer from Ebola. The first Sudanese town to be affected by the disease was Nzara, and it later spread to other regions such as Juba and Tumbura. The first individuals to be infected with Ebola worked in a cotton manufacturing company. Large numbers of medical professionals were affected by the virus due to the lack of proper information on how it spreads. The first Ebola outbreak affected around 284 people, and 151 people died. Sudan was also affected by Ebola in 1979 as the disease once again afflicted individuals living in Nzara and Maridi. About 34 people were infected with the virus, and the death rate was approximately 65%. The next outbreak in Sudan occurred in 2004 in Yambio County. The disease affected only 17 people with a fatality rate of about 41%. At the time, a measles outbreak was also affecting the region which complicated the treatment of the disease as several cases of measles were wrongly diagnosed as Ebola.
Democratic Republic of Congo
In 1976, the Democratic Republic of Congo then referred to as Zaire, became the second nation in the world to have confirmed cases of Ebola. The first area in the country to be afflicted with the disease was Yambuku a village approximately 682 miles from Kinshasa. The first resident of Yambuku to be infected with the virus was a local headmaster who was wrongly diagnosed as having malaria. He would later be the first Ebola fatality in Congo. The survival rate for the first outbreak of Ebola in the nation was approximately 12% as nearly 280 people out of the 318 infected died. In 1995, the country had a second outbreak of the disease which affected 315 people. The second major outbreak occurred in the Kikwit area and spread rapidly among family members and those in hospitals. The fatality rate reduced from 88% in the first outbreak to about 81%. The Kasai-Occidental province was the site of the third major outbreak of Ebola in the country in 2007 which resulted in the infection of about 264 people. The death rate was significantly lower than in previous epidemics as it was approximately 71%. The province was once again the center of a major outbreak that lasted from 2008 to 2009 which affected 32 people with only 14 fatalities. A subsequent outbreak occurred in 2012 with a death rate of about 47%. The country also had Ebola outbreaks in 2014 and 2018 with death rates of 74% and 61% respectively. As of August 2018, the nation was in the midst of an Ebola outbreak.
In 1994, Gabon became the third country to be the center of a major Ebola outbreak. During the initial days of the epidemic, patients were wrongly diagnosed as having yellow fever. People living in the Makokou region, as well as gold miners working close to the Ivindo River, were the ones at the highest risk from the disease at the time. Out of 52 people infected with the virus, 31 died which was a death rate of roughly 60%. In 1996, Gabon was the center of two Ebola outbreaks the first from January to April and the second from July to March the subsequent year. The death rates were 57% and 75% respectively. An outbreak occurred from 2001 to 2002 that affected residents in both Gabon and the Republic of the Congo with 107 fatalities out of the 135 infected people.
Republic of the Congo
The first recorded instance of Ebola in the Republic of the Congo lasted from 2001 to 2002 with a death rate of about 79%. In December of 2002 to April the following year, an Ebola outbreak affected the nation, particularly in the Kelle and Mbomo districts. The outbreak was one of the most fatal in the nation's history as the fatalities were nearly 90%. From November to December 2003, about 35 individuals were affected with the disease, 29 of whom died.
The 2013-2016 Ebola Outbreak
The deadliest outbreak of Ebola in the world occurred between 2013 and 2016 and mainly affected nations in West Africa with the most affected being Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. According to data from the World Health Organization, 28,616 people were infected with the virus with about 11,300 fatalities. Several European nations such as the United Kingdom and Italy also had confirmed Ebola cases although due to proper treatment, there were no fatalities in those countries. The United States had four confirmed cases with only a single casualty. Research indicates that the first confirmed case was of a one-year-old boy who later died from the disease. To properly manage the outbreak, several countries, as well as international organizations, worked together to provide treatment to the infected.
Prevention of Ebola
To prevent the spread of the disease from spreading, it is advisable for those responsible for treating the sick to wear protective clothing. The infected people should also be quarantined to avoid the virus spreading to other people. Adequate information should be provided to the communities living in areas vulnerable to the disease. The corpses of those who died from Ebola should also be handled properly to avoid infecting others.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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