Ebola scanning electron image

Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control.

Ebola, Magnified X25K
| published September 5, 2014 |

By Thursday Review staff

The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been one of the most deadly epidemics in recent history. According to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the 2014 Ebola outbreak has infected more than 3000 people and caused the deaths of as many as 1552. Most of those deaths have been concentrated in Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.

Originally discovered and identified in 1976 in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), the disease is named for the Ebola River, which flows through the village of Yambuku, where its first flare-ups took place decades ago. The disease has recurred in varying strains and in intermittent flare-ups in Africa, though its most recent epidemic has spread almost as fast as the authorities in several countries can contain. Ebola can affect humans, primates and fruit bats, though it has a low mortality rate among gorillas and chimpanzees, and zero mortality in bats. Originally thought to be spread by fruit bats, scientists now think that the disease can be spread through the handling of the carcasses of a variety of other animals, including antelopes and porcupines. Once infected, a human can very easily spread the disease to other humans through direct contact (cuts and broken skin, secretions, bodily fluids, blood).

In humans, the symptoms come on swiftly and with severity, and the 2014 outbreak has caused death in roughly half of all suspected and confirmed cases. This high rate of mortality makes Ebola one of the most lethal viruses in decades.

The image above, provided by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, show the Ebola virus up close. Using a scanning electron micrograph to digitally capture the virus, this image shows virus particles (in red) budding from a chronically-infected VERO E6 cell (the blue areas underneath and in the background). The area shown has been magnified by a factor of 25,000.

Photo courtesy of Centers for Disease Control/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).