CRF Blog

The 2014 Ebola outbreak

by Bill Hayes

Vox explains The 2014 Ebola outbreak in 16 short cards. Below is the first card.

Why is Ebola suddenly in the news?

The deadliest Ebola outbreak in recorded history is happening right now. The outbreak is unprecedented both in infection numbers and in geographic scope. And so far, it’s been a long battle that doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

The Ebola virus has now hit four countries: Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.

The virus — which starts off with flu-like symptoms and sometimes ends with bleeding — has infected about 2,400 people and killed more than 1,300 since this winter, according to estimates on August 20 from the World Health Organization.

Ebola is both rare and very deadly. Since the first outbreak in 1976, Ebola viruses have infected thousands of people and killed roughly 60 percent of them. Symptoms can come on very quickly and kill fast:

Ebola Chart

Each bar here represents a different Ebola outbreak. The data is what the CDC has on record. Not every case or death always gets officially recorded, so there is always some wiggle room in numbers like these. The 2014 bar is the WHO’s estimate of the current outbreak as of August 15, 2014.

Journalist David Quammen put it well in a recent New York Times op-ed: “Ebola is more inimical to humans than perhaps any known virus on Earth, except rabies and HIV-1. And it does its damage much faster than either.” [more]