The latest outbreak of Ebola is affecting the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has already claimed 55 people in the region. The deadly disease has long been considered incurable, though swift isolation and the rapid treatment of symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration has helped some patients to survive. Here is a recap of the origins and previous epidemics of the deadly virus:
The year saw the initial outbreak of Ebola in Sudan. The virus was named after the Ebola River in northern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The second outbreak occurred in August of the same year in the DRC, then known as Zaire. It is considered to be the origin of Ebola. 280 of the 318 cases in Zaire were fatal.
The Ogooué-Ivindo province of Gabon was subject to the outbreak in December of 1994. Affected areas included the gold-mining camps in the rainforest and along the Ivindo River. 31 people died. However, until 1995, the virus was incorrectly classed as yellow fever.
In May 1995, Ebola returned to the DRC in Kikwit, the largest city and capital of the Kwilu Province. The disease spread rapidly and killed 254 people out of 315 reported cases.
2000 - 2001
In September 2000, the Ebola outbreak spread to Uganda for the first time, primarily affecting the Gulu, Masindi, and Mbarara districts. Out of a reported 425 cases, 224 died. Risks of infection were said to include coming into contact with casualties, attending funerals of casualties, and offering medical care to casualties without using appropriate hygiene measures.
2001 - 2003
The epidemic struck both sides of the border between Gabon and the Republic of Congo (RC). Gabon witnessed an increase of Ebola cases between October 2001 and May 2002. It was also the first time the RC was faced with the virus, wherein the Mbomo and Mbandza villages of the Mbomo District were gravely affected.
Ebola returned to Sudan between April and June 2004. The virus spread through the Yambio county in the Western Equatoria State of South Sudan. At the same time, there was also an outbreak of measles in the same area.
2013 - 2016
The most severe and widespread epidemic broke out in West Africa in December 2013. The months between 2013 and 2016 were said to have the highest number of human cases and fatalities of the Ebola virus, killing 11,310 people out of 28,616 recorded cases. It began in the Guinean village of Gueckedou, where a two-year-old boy died of a haemorrhagic fever. Soon after, the boy’s mother, sister and grandmother died. In March 2014, Guinea confirmed that the haemorrhagic fever was in fact Ebola. The disease spread to neighbouring villages and later affected foreign countries, including the UK, US, and Spain. The outbreak was declared over in June 2016.
The DRC government reported two confirmed cases of the Ebola virus in the town of Bikoro on 8 May 2018. A week later, another case was confirmed in the city of Mbandaka. Health authorities have been attempting to ring vaccinate with rVSV-ZEBOV, a newly developed experimental vaccine to contain the Ebola outbreak. It was declared over in July 2018; however, it has returned. Since being declared in the Kivu province just three weeks ago, 55 people have died. The death toll, as well as the number of human cases, continues to rise. This is now the DRC’s tenth Ebola outbreak since 1976.