What is Ebola?

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Abstract

On 23 March 2014, the World Health Organization first announced a new Ebola virus outbreak that started in December 2013 in the eastern part of the Republic of Guinea. Human infections shortly emerged in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. On 30 September 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed through laboratory testing the first Ebola virus infection diagnosed in the USA, in a patient who travelled from West Africa to Texas. On 6 October 2014, the first human infection occurring outside of Africa was reported, in a Spanish nurse who treated two priests, both of whom died, and on 23 October 2014, the first human infection was reported in New York City. To date, the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak is the longest, largest, and most persistent one since 1976, when the virus was first identified in humans, and the number of human cases exceeded, as of mid-September 2014, the cumulative number of infections from all the previous outbreaks. The early clinical presentation overlaps with other infectious diseases, opening differential diagnosis difficulties. Understanding the transmission routes and identifying the natural reservoir of the virus are additional challenges in studying Ebola hemorrhagic fever outbreaks. Ebola virus is as much a public health challenge for developing countries as it is for the developed world, and previous outbreaks underscored that the relative contribution of the risk factors may differ among outbreaks. The implementation of effective preparedness plans is contingent on integrating teachings from previous Ebola virus outbreaks with those from the current outbreak and with lessons provided by other infectious diseases, along with developing a multifaceted inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary framework that should be established and shaped by biomedical as well as sociopolitical sciences.

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