It is indeed a new threat, but the disease is certainly not new. So why has this recent outbreak caught the world’s attention?
What is the Ebola virus?
Ebola was first identified in 1976 following two separate outbreaks in Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, respectively. It is the latter from which the virus takes its name, with the Ebola disease being thought to originate in the country’s Ebola River.
The virus gets its fearsome reputation from the fact that the mortality rate of infected individuals is so high, with 90% of untreated cases being fatal.
A combination of factors account for this high death-rate, including the fact that most cases are found in Africa, where there is often a lack of available treatment, amongst other things.
Why has this case come to worldwide attention?
Ebola outbreaks are not a new thing, but it is the scale and spread of this health scare that is worrying the world community. Indeed, there have been frequent outbreaks going back as far as the aforementioned outbreak, in 1976. But, putting things into perspective, the combination of these previous outbreaks is surpassed by the numbers of this latest epidemic.
It was previously thought that this disease was confined to small communities in Africa, but these numbers paint quite a different picture. And, for the rest of the world, the prospect that people travelling out of Africa could bring the disease to their shores is now all the more real.
What is the actual worldwide threat?
Despite the unusual numbers of infection in this case, the overall threat to countries worldwide is deemed low. That’s not to say that infected people won’t travel out of Africa to other countries, but the number of these cases is very small, and often the receiving countries become aware of the risk very quickly and have the appropriate precautions and treatments in place.