Ebola: Key facts and insights from the field

The outbreak of Ebola virus disease has continued to wreak havoc in West Africa. In the past ten months, the outbreak has caused over 2,600 people according to WHO estimates.  Though the total number of ebola deaths (less than 5,000 since it’s discovery in 1976) pales in comparison to other diseases, this outbreak presents new challenges to health, humanitarian, economic and political structures. Given the high risk and high mortality of the outbreak, governments worldwide have pledged support to aid failing health systems. 

What we know: 

  • Ebola virus disease is currently only spread in humans through direct contact with bodily fluids like blood, sweat and urine.
  • The mortality rate in this outbreak is under 50% (compared to others where 90-100% of ebola infections led to mortality).
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitation, and reducing contact with symptomatic persons or corpses reduces transmission.
  • Though there is no vaccine or treatment, the pharmaceutical industry has developed promising leads. However, use of experimental drugs raise ethical questions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide timely updates as well as fact sheets on ebola symptoms, transmission, treatment and prevention.  Follow this link to read stories from the front lines of the epidemic.

The University of Chicago Center for Global Health will continue to share timely updates as we monitor the spread of disease in our interdependent world. Please note: this outbreak and discussions surrounding future implications change rapidly, so check in with the CDC, WHO and news sites to follow the stories.