It has been two years since the Ebola outbreak - what actually happened?
In March 2014 an outbreak started in West Africa, and became the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the virus was discovered in 1976, according to the World Health Organisation. Sadly, the rate of virus transmission reached epidemic proportions and at its height, the infection rate doubled every 20 to 30 days. As of April 13, the WHO cites a total of 28616 cases across Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and a total of 11310 deaths.
What is Ebola?
Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a serious illness with a mortality rate of about 50 percent of infected people. It spreads through human-to-human contact, with the first transmissions in outbreaks generally coming from wild animals.
The incubation period for the virus is up to 21 days long – although it can be as short as two days – so sufferers can move a long way from the initial site of infection before they even realise they are sick. They are infectious once they develop symptoms, and those include: the sudden onset of fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat; followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding (for example oozing from the gums or eyes, blood in faeces).
Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids of infected people, or with items such as bedding that have been in direct contact with the victims themselves. It cannot be spread through the air. Health care workers have sadly contracted Ebola while treating patients, and the virus has also been passed on during burial ceremonies when custom dictates communal washing of the body.
How is the situation in West Africa now?
On 29 March 2016 WHO terminated the Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Representatives of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone presented the epidemiological situation, ongoing work to prevent Ebola re-emergence, and capacity to detect and respond rapidly to any new clusters of cases in each country. All three countries have now met the criteria for confirming interruption of their original chains of Ebola virus transmission. Specifically, all three countries have now completed the 42 day observation period and additional 90 day enhanced surveillance period since their last case that was linked to the original chain of transmission twice tested negative. Guinea was the last to achieve this milestone on 27 March 2016.