Ebola: Mapping the outbreak
- 18 May 2015
- From the section Africa
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa was first reported in March 2014, and has rapidly become the deadliest occurrence of the disease since its discovery in 1976.
In fact, the current epidemic sweeping across the region has now killed five times more than all other known Ebola outbreaks combined.
More than year on from the first confirmed case recorded on 23 March 2014, more than 11,130 people have been reported as having died from the disease in six countries; Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the US and Mali.
The total number of reported cases is more than 26,885.
The World Health Organization (WHO) admits the figures are underestimates, given the difficulty collecting the data. WHO officials in December discovered scores of bodies in a remote diamond-mining area of Sierra Leone, raising fears that the scale of the Ebola outbreak may have been underreported.
The WHO has declared the outbreaks in Nigeria and Senegal officially over, as there have been no new cases reported since 5 September, 2014.
The outbreak in Liberia, which has had the highest number of deaths out of all the countries affected, was declared over on 9 May, 2015. The WHO said that at the peak of transmission, during August and September 2014, the country was reporting between 300 and 400 new cases every week. The last official victim in the country was buried on 28 March 2015.
How the virus spread: Ebola death toll
In March, hospital staff alerted Guinea's Ministry of Health and then medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). They reported a mysterious disease in the south-eastern regions of Gueckedou, Macenta, Nzerekore, and Kissidougou.
It caused fever, diarrhoea and vomiting. It also had a high death rate. Of the first 86 cases, 59 people died.
The WHO later confirmed the disease as Ebola.
Ebola outbreak: Key stories
The Gueckedou prefecture in Guinea, where the outbreak started, is a major regional trading centre and, by the end of March, Ebola had crossed the border into Liberia. It was confirmed in Sierra Leone in May.
In June, MSF described the Ebola outbreak as out of control.
In August, the United Nations health agency declared an "international public health emergency", saying that a co-ordinated response was essential to halt the spread of the virus.
Senegal reported its first case of Ebola on 29 August. A young man from Guinea had travelled to Senegal despite having been infected with the virus, officials said.
By September, WHO director general Margaret Chan said the number of patients was "moving far faster than the capacity to manage them".
Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, Thomas Frieden, said in October that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was unlike anything since the emergence of HIV/Aids. But Senegal managed to halt transmissions by mid October.
Authorities in Mali confirmed the death of the country's first Ebola patient, a two-year-old girl, on 25 October. The girl had travelled hundreds of kilometres by bus from Guinea through Mali showing symptoms of the disease, the WHO said.
An infected Islamic preacher from Guinea, who was initially diagnosed with a kidney problem, was treated at a clinic in Bamako. The preacher died a few days after entering the country.
Two health workers who cared for the preacher also died after contracting the virus. In total, Mali recorded six deaths from Ebola. By January 2015 however, the country was declared ebola-free.
Ebola outside West Africa
*In all but three cases the patient was infected with Ebola while in West Africa. Infection outside Africa has been restricted to health workers in Madrid and in Dallas. DR Congo also reported a separate outbreak of an unrelated strain of Ebola.
The first case of the deadly virus diagnosed on US soil was announced on 1 October. Thomas Eric Duncan, 42, who contracted the virus in Liberia before travelling to the US, died on 8 October.
He had not displayed symptoms of the disease until 24 September, five days after his arrival. Other people with whom he came into contact are being monitored for symptoms.
Two medical workers in Dallas, Texas, who treated Duncan tested positive for Ebola since his death but have both recovered. The second death on US soil was surgeon Martin Salia, from Sierra Leone. He was flown back to the United States in November and treated for Ebola at a hospital in Nebraska. But Dr Salia, who had US residency and was married to an American, died a short time later.
Spanish nurse Teresa Romero was the first person to contract the virus outside West Africa. She was part of a team of about 30 staff at the Carlos II hospital in Madrid looking after two missionaries who returned from Liberia and Sierra Leone after becoming infected.
Germany, Norway, France, Italy, Switzerland and the UK have all treated patients who contracted the virus in West Africa.
Are cases levelling off?
Efforts to tackle Ebola have been hindered by fierce resistance from local communities with a history of suspicion towards outside intervention.
This has enabled new chains of transmission to pop up.
There was a slight increase in cases at the beginning of February, after they began to fall in January.
Guinea recorded almost 100 new cases in the week ending 15 March. But that had dropped to 21 in the week ending 5 April.
The WHO said the number of confirmed cases now being reported was the lowest since May 2014.
Health officials are anxious to end the outbreak in as wide an area as possible, especially in remote places, which will become difficult to access once the rainy season starts.
2014 outbreak in context
Ebola was first identified in 1976 and occurs in regions of sub-Saharan Africa. There are normally fewer than 500 cases reported each year, and no cases were reported at all between 1979 and 1994.
In August 2014 the WHO confirmed a separate outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo. By the beginning of October there had been 70 cases reported and 43 deaths.
However, the outbreak in DR Congo is a different strain of the virus and unrelated to the epidemic in West Africa, which now dwarfs all previous outbreaks.