We are currently living during the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. Since August 2018 more than 2000 people have been affected in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the WHO.
The deadliest-ever Ebola outbreak on record began in West Africa. That outbreak infected more than 26,000 people. Over 11,000 of them died over two years. Much of the spread was due to traditional burial rituals which require handling of the dead. It was difficult for public health officials to stop these traditional practices. Those tasked with burning the bodies of the deceased were largely ousted from their communities for their role in infection prevention.
The virus enters a person’s body through a cut in the skin or the mucous membranes. The virus is thought to be transmitted from bats via bodily fluids and is capable of being spread to other primates in addition to humans.
The symptoms of Ebola initially present quite similarly to the flu. Patient’s report body aches, exhaustion, stomach pain, and sometimes vision problems. Most often, these symptoms waste no time, quickly escalating into a hemorrhagic fever. This causes internal and external bleeding, organ failure, and often death.
Although each outbreak differs, because Ebola is actually a group of viruses, survival once infected is essentially a coin flip. Doctors do their best to maintain homeostasis in patients, but fatality rates still range from 50 to 90%, depending on the particular Ebola strain.
Shockingly, many Ebola outbreaks may have gone unnoticed. The outbreaks we do recognize are large enough to draw international attention. Smaller outbreaks though are likely more common than we are aware.
Researchers were able to demonstrate this using computer modeling. They were using data from the deadliest outbreak, in 2014, for their study. The numbers revealed that dozens of cases might have never been picked up by medical monitoring. This may occur for several reasons, including being mistaken for another similar illness.
This suggests more monitoring is needed to help contain outbreaks. Additionally, education on the signs and symptoms of Ebola is needed in at-risk areas to help prevent the spreading of the virus.