This year’s Ebola outbreak in Africa is by far the worst the continent has seen since 1976, when the virus was first discovered.
The first outbreak in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo claimed 280 lives, and subsequent outbreaks saw similar numbers of cases and deaths.
This year, however, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed at least 961 people so far, according to the most recent numbers from the World Health Organisation, with 1,779 suspected and confirmed cases. To put that into perspective, this year’s outbreak accounts for about half of the total number of Ebola cases seen since 1976.
Ebola is extremely deadly, with the fatality rate as high as 90% in some outbreaks. (While the fatality rate in the current outbreak is expected to rise, it now hovers at just under 60%.)
The chart below shows the history of the virus as well as the scale and reach of the current outbreak:
As you can see in the graphic, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea — countries that hadn’t previously seen Ebola outbreaks — have the most cases, and the death rate in Liberia is staggeringly high.
Ebola is a virus that can easily be mistaken for the flu at first, but it progresses quickly, often causing excessive bleeding, organ damage, and death.
The World Health Organisation is attempting to contain the disease, but so far the outbreak is outpacing its efforts.
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