Ebola: The facts about the virus without the hype

Image source, AFP/Getty Images
Image caption,
A Spanish missionary infected with Ebola arrives in Madrid

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 930 people and whipped up a fair amount of hype in the papers.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has now declared the spread of the virus an international health emergency.

Newsbeat takes a look at the facts...

  • The outbreak started in February and has spread within West Africa affecting Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. One death has also been reported in Nigeria.
  • As of 22 August, there have been 1,427 deaths attributed to Ebola (WO)
Image source, Science Photo Library
  • In previous outbreaks, cases have been largely restricted to rural areas which are hard to get to, but this outbreak has seen a spread in densely populated cities.
  • Liberia has now closed schools, most of its border crossings and communities hit by an Ebola outbreak face quarantine to try to halt the spread of the virus.
Image source, AFP/Getty Images
  • Early symptoms include fever, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rashes and bleeding, sometimes from the eyes and mouth.
  • Ebola is transferred to humans through close contact with infected animals. It is then spread from person to person through bodily fluids.
  • Some local customs in West Africa, such as funeral rights, are thought to be increasing the spread especially when family members and religious figures prepare a body for burial.
Image source, AP
  • The cases in Nigeria is thought to have been someone who arrived by plane and several UK newspapers have claimed it could come to the UK in the same way, but experts believe the chances of this happening are small.
  • A passenger who died shortly after landing at Gatwick on a flight from Sierra Leone tested negative. She wasn't displaying any symptoms and the tests were a precaution, but hasn't stopped some of the papers using it for headlines.
  • It is thought unlikely that the disease would spread if it somehow did come to the UK because quarantine and communication is more developed than in West Africa.
  • To date, there has never been a case of Ebola transmission within Europe.
Image source, AP
  • A person cannot be tested for the virus until symptoms develop, which can be up to 21 days.
  • Ebola carries a 90% fatality rate, although in this outbreak, the figure is more like 60% (source: WHO)
  • The last outbreak of Ebola was in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2012 when 29 people died (source: WHO)
  • There is no cure for Ebola, but vaccines and treatments are in development. Two US aid workers were given experimental drug ZMapp and survived but as it's not an official drug, there are no supplies. Rehydration and good nutritional support are thought to help.
  • A person can be infectious for eight weeks after becoming ill (source: WHO)
Image source, Science Photo Library
  • This year, around 600 people will die in the UK as a result of flu which is spread from person to person (source: NHS)

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