Why the deadly disease Ebola keeps coming back

Thursday, November 8, 2018
By Paul Martin

By Philip Whiteside
Sky News

Ebola is a virus that causes a serious illness which often leads to death if it is not treated.

It was first identified in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in a community next to the Ebola river.

During the outbreak, there were 318 cases identified, but 88% of those affected died. The death rate makes it one of the most deadly diseases in history – far worse than the estimated 30-60% of Europeans who died of bubonic plague in medieval times.

In 1967, as a result of a possibly related outbreak to DR Congo, the disease killed 151 people in what is now South Sudan.

Since then, there have been at least 25 outbreaks – the most famous of which killed nearly 11,000 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014 and 2016.

A few outbreaks have occurred in the West but the vast majority have hit countries across a large area of sub-Saharan Africa.

All have peaked and then subsided and many have occurred years apart, and often hundreds or thousands of miles apart.

It is only recently that scientists have figured out that the movement of Ebola across vast distances and its tendency to disappear and reappear is down to its natural home in the animal kingdom.

Professor Daniel Bausch, the director of UK Public Health’s Rapid Support Team for Ebola and a senior figure in organising the UK’s response to the outbreak in West Africa, told Sky News the reason the disease can travel so far.

“We think that it’s probably maintained in nature in bats,” he said.

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