The ongoing outbreak of Ebola virus in Western Africa is now by far the biggest in the 38-year history of the disease, with 1,145 deaths and 2,127 suspected cases recorded as a virulent strain of the disease spreads across Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. This outbreak, which has been growing since March, concerns the deadliest form of the Ebola virus, Zaire Ebolavirus.
Zaire strain kills on average 78% of those who contract it and is mainly found in tropical Central and West Africa. Early symptoms are similar to those of flu but are followed by severe vomiting and diarrhoea, and eventually internal and external bleeding.
It is introduced into the human population through close contact with the sweat, blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines.
While the rapid spread of EVD has set off international alarm bells, it’s another disease, malaria, that’s by far the number one killer in West Africa, accounting for 33,205 deaths in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia in 2011 alone.