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Type: Viral

Geography: Sub-Saharan Africa

Cases Per Year: highly variable

Fatality Rate: Around 50%

First Discovered: 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) by Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe and Dr. Peter Piot

The Ebola virus is a deadly disease with occasional outbreaks in Asia, Europe, and North America, but mainly on the African continent. It most commonly affects humans and non-human primates. Scientists believe the virus is animal-borne, from either bats or non-human primates.

The virus is transmitted between people through direct contact of bodily fluids. The time period between contracting the disease and the start of symptoms is 2 to 21 days, and a person is not contagious until they develop symptoms. 

“Dry” symptoms of fever, severe headache, muscle and joint pain, abdominal pain, weakness, and fatigue first appear, followed by  “wet” symptoms including diarrhea and vomiting as the person becomes sicker. Unexplained hemorrhaging, bleeding, or bruising, red eyes, skin rash, and hiccups are also common symptoms.

Photo: Ebola virus – Electron micrograph.

Survivors may experience side effects after recovery, such as tiredness, muscle aches, vision problems, and stomach pain.