Profile of a killer
With the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) latest outbreak spreading to Uganda for the first time, here are some facts about the virus.
In pic: File photo of health workers dressed in Ebola protective suits carrying a coffin with the body of Congolese woman Kahambu Tulirwaho, who died of Ebola, as it is transported for a burial from the Ebola treatment centre in Butembo, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The virus is highly contagious, making it difficult to contain especially in urban environments.
It is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads among humans though close contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person.
Ebola is believe to reside in bats, which do not themselves fall ill but can pass it on.
Chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines can also become infected, and humans who kill and eat these animals can catch the virus through them.
High fever, weakness, intense muscle and joint pain, headaches and a sore throat are often followed by vomiting and diarrhoea, skin eruptions, kidney and liver failure, internal and external bleeding.
After-effects have often been observed in survivors, including arthritis, problems with vision, eye inflammation and hearing difficulties.
After the DRC’s 10th outbreak started in August, health authorities there began issuing the rVSV-Zebov vaccine on a large scale for the first time.
Developed by Merck laboratories, the vaccine is unlicenced but has been widely shown to be safe and effective, and the WHO has called for its deployment to be expanded.
WHO experts have also recommended introducing another experimental vaccine, the MVA-BN developed by Johnson & Johnson.
To contain the spread of the virus, patients and people who have been in contact with them are routinely isolated.
Medical personnel are meticulously protected with disposable full-body plastic suits, masks, goggles, gloves and disinfecting sprays.
Discovery of the virus
They named the virus after a river in the DRC — then known as Zaire — that was close to the location of the first known outbreak.
Four of the virus species are known to cause disease in humans — Zaire, Sudan, Bundibugyo and Tai Forest.
World’s worst Ebola outbreak
It claimed the lives of more than 11,300 people from the nearly 29,000 registered cases, according to WHO estimates.
The real figure may have been significantly higher.
More than 99 percent of victims were in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, although cases appeared all over the world, sparking panic.
Not over yet
The current outbreak in the DRC is the worst since then. First recorded on August 1 in North Kivu province, on the border with Uganda, it had killed more than 1,300 people from more than 2,000 cases by June 4, the healthy ministry said.
Uganda was infected for the first time in 2000 by a strain of Ebola that spread from Sudan and claimed 224 lives.
SOURCES: AFP, WHO, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).