What Everyone Needs to Know Q&A: As the crisis in West Africa worsens with the ebola virus killing over 670 people — including Dr. Sheik Umar Khan who saved hundreds — we certainly need to know more about the Ebola virus.
Is Ebola the scariest of all viruses?
It’s certainly right up there. If we just think in terms of disease severity, Ebola, along with Hendra, is a terrifying pathogen. First isolated in 1976 from hemorrhagic fever cases in the Ebola River region of the Republic of the Congo, the case fatality rate ranges from 30% to 80% (average 68%), depending on the substrain. That excludes the non-pathogenic (for humans) Ebola/Reston variant found initially in a U.S. primate colony and isolated more recently from sick pigs in the Philippines. All natural cases of severe Ebola have occurred in Africa, or in laboratory workers who were accidentally exposed while operating under high-security conditions. Infection in the field is via contaminated body fluids and utensils rather than by aerosol. Even so, this virus is greatly feared because it can spread quickly when it first emerges, before people understand what they are dealing with.