Ebola ‘First’ possible transmission of the virus in America BBC News

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Ebola is a serious infectious illness which often proves fatal.

The virus, which is thought to have originated in fruit bats, was first detected in 1976 in an outbreak near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In 1979 the virus disappeared and wasn’t recognised again until 1994 when further outbreaks happened across Central Africa.

The current outbreak – the largest yet – was confirmed in Guinea, West Africa in March.

By August it has killed more than 1,000 people across Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

While the threat for people living in countries outside Africa remains very low, here is everything you need to know about the deadly disease from NHS Choices.

How is Ebola spread?

People can become infected with the Ebola virus if they come into contact with the blood, body fluids or organs of an infected person.

Most people are infected by giving care to other infected people, either by directly touching the victim’s body or by cleaning up body fluids (stools, urine or vomit) that carry infectious blood.

Traditional African burial rituals have also played a part in its spread. The Ebola virus can survive for several days outside the body, including on the skin of an infected person, and it’s common practice for mourners to touch the body of the deceased. They only then need to touch their mouth to become infected.

Other ways people can catch Ebola are: touching the soiled clothing of an infected person, then touching their mouth; having sex with an infected person without using a condom (the virus is present in semen for up to seven weeks after the infected person has recovered); and handling unsterilised needles or medical equipment that were used in the care of the infected person.

A person is infectious as long as their blood, urine, stools or secretions contain the virus.

Ebola virus disease is generally not spread through routine social contact (such as shaking hands) with patients who do not have symptoms.

The virus is not, for example, as infectious as diseases like the flu, as airborne transmission is much less likely. You’d need to have close contact with the source of infection to be at risk.


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