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Ebola explainer: A deadly killer surfaces again

Health officials in Guinea are trying to contain a deadly Ebola virus outbreak that has killed at least 59 people. The new cases mark the first time in 20 years that an outbreak has been reported in West Africa. In Saskatchewan, a man who doctors feared may have contracted serious hemorrhagic fever on a recent trip to Liberia has tested negative.

The Associated Press

What’s happening?

A Saskatchewan man who doctors feared had contracted the Ebola virus has tested negative for the deadly disease along with other serious hemorrhagic fevers, the Public Health Agency of Canada said on Tuesday. Testing is ongoing to determine the source of the man’s illness.
The case drew widespread public concern because the man became sick after travelling to the West African country of Liberia, where health officials fear an outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever has spread from neighbouring Guinea.
In what the World Health Organization calls “a rapidly evolving outbreak,” the Ebola virus has killed at least 59 people in Guinea, the first cluster of cases in West Africa in 20 years. In addition, health officials are investigating five deaths in Liberia that are suspected of having links to the Guinea outbreak along with two suspected cases in Sierra Leone.

What is Ebola?

Ebola causes severe fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches, stomach pain and bleeding, including from the eyes. It has a fatality rate of up to 90 per cent. It can take up to three weeks for victims to show symptoms after exposure. 
Highly contagious, the Ebola virus is transmitted to humans from wild animals, including through consumption of meat from infected primates. It later spreads among humans through direct contact with an infected person’s blood or bodily fluids, making health workers especially vulnerable. It can also spread during communal funerals where mourners have direct contact with bodies of Ebola victims.
There is no treatment or vaccine.

Past outbreaks

More than 1,500 people have died from Ebola since the virus first appeared in simultaneous outbreaks in Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo (then known as Zaire) in 1976, according to the WHO.
The largest death toll occurred in the village of Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo, where 280 people died in 1976. Many became sickened after receiving injections from contaminated syringes at the local hospital. The village is near the Ebola River, lending the virus its name.
Since then, sporadic outbreaks have occurred, mostly in Central and East Africa.

How we see it

One of the world’s deadliest diseases, the Ebola virus inspired the 1995 film Outbreak, which starred Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo and Morgan Freeman. The film portrayed efforts to contain a fictional Ebola-like virus in Zaire and the U.S.

With a report from The Associated Press

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