Ebola first appeared in 1976 in simultaneous outbreaks in Nzara, Sudan, and in Yambuku, DRC
The latter was in a village situated near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name
Fruit bats are considered to be the natural host of the Ebola virus
The case-fatality rate varies from 25 to 90 percent, depending on the strain

If contracted, Ebola is one of the world’s most deadly diseases. It is a highly infectious virus that can kill up to 90 percent of the people who catch it, causing terror among infected communities.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has treated hundreds of people with the disease and helped to contain numerous life-threatening epidemics.

Ebola: Latest MSF Updates

Click Here to Read the latest report: "Pushed to the Limit and Beyond"

MSF Ebola activities in West Africa, November 2, 2015


WHO Figures

  Date of Info Cases Deaths
Guinea Week 43 3,806 2,535
Liberia Outbreak 1 over 10,666 4,806
  Outbreak 2 over 6 2
Sierra Leone Week 43 14,001 3,955
Nigeria Outbreak over 20 8
Senegal Outbreak over 1 0
USA Outbreak over 4 1
Spain Outbreak over 1 0
Mali Outbreak over 8 6
UK Outbreak over 1 0
TOTAL   28,514 11,313

MSF Staff on the Ground (as of November 1, 2015)

  • Guinea: 26 international, 480 national
  • Liberia: 18 international, 269 national
  • Sierra Leone: 31 international, 275 national
  • Total: 75 international, 269 national

MSF’s Ebola response started in March 2014 and included activities in the three most-affected countries (Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone) as well as Nigeria, Mali, and DRC. MSF currently employs around 75 international and around 269 national (or locally hired) staff in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Since the epidemic began, 10,287 patients have been admitted to MSF Ebola management centers, 5,225 of whom were confirmed to have the disease. Of those, 2,475 patients recovered.

Sierra Leone

Update: November 2, 2015

With Ebola unseen in Sierra Leone for many weeks, and the outbreak hopefully to be declared over on November 7, MSF is focusing activities on survivor health care and surveillance in Western Area (Freetown) and Tonkolili (Magburaka). There are also plans to begin non-Ebola health activities in several districts of the country.


The so-called “core” ETC in Bo was closed on October 15 after several months with no positive cases recorded in the district, or indeed the entire southern part of the country.


MSF is running a survivor health clinic in Magburaka town as well as a mobile clinic in the surrounding villages in Tonkolili and Bombali districts. At the end of September the team was supporting a cohort of 171 survivors with medical and mental health activities.

Freetown – Hastings (replacement Kissy)

MSF was running an Ebola Maternity Center in Hastings, with specific obstetric services for Ebola-positive pregnant women in need of tailored care. Over the last months the center also accepted patients other than pregnant women who presented with symptoms of Ebola. The center will close once the outbreak is declared over.

Freetown – Surveillance and contact tracing

MSF works in coordination with the District Ebola Response Committee (DERC) to identify and respond to suspect cases of Ebola in Freetown. Despite the fact that Ebola has not been seen for many weeks, isolating and testing those who meet admission criteria remains an important element of the response.


Update: November 2, 2015

After first being declared Ebola-free on May 9, a 17-year-old boy died on June 29, followed by five further cases of the virus. The outbreak was declared over again on September 3, and the country is now observing a period of heightened vigilance.

With the national health system decimated by the outbreak—and nearly 200 Liberian health care workers killed by the disease, according to official statistics—MSF is focusing activities on supporting the recovery of health facilities, hoping to encourage Liberian people to feel confident they can go to hospital to have their health care needs looked after.


In Monrovia, MSF is running a 74-bed pediatric hospital, including a neonatal intensive care unit, aiming to contribute to restoring the provision of secondary health care in the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak. In September, 374 children were cared for at the hospital. Twenty-five percent of the cases admitted in the emergency room suffered from malaria.

MSF also runs a clinic for Ebola survivors in the premises of the hospital. Former patients have to face stigma and discrimination while accessing care, as well as social and economic problems (loss of work, loss of housing, etc.). MSF provides general outpatient consultations and addresses mental health needs for a group of more than 500 identified former Ebola patients, estimated to be one-third of all survivors in Liberia. Common complaints are joint pains and ophthalmic issues, for which MSF guarantees referral to external specialists.


Update: November 2, 2015

There were three new confirmed cases of Ebola in Guinea during the week ending October 25. All three new cases are from the same household in the sub-prefecture of Kaliah, Forecariah, and are registered high-risk contacts linked to a case from the same area last week.

The country also reported three cases the previous week. There are currently 364 contacts under follow-up in Guinea (an increase from 246 the previous week), 141 of whom are high-risk. An additional 233 contacts identified during the past 42 days remain untraced.


Update: October 23, 2014

WHO declared October 20 as the official end of the epidemic after 42 days without a case. The MSF intervention has been closed.


Update: October 23, 2014

WHO declared October 17 as the official end of the epidemic after 42 days without a case. The MSF intervention has been closed. MSF’s West African Unit (Dakar) will keep in contact with the government for follow-up as part of their routine activities.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Update: November 20, 2014

The outbreak in DRC’s Equateur province, which was unrelated to the one in West Africa, was declared over this week. Around 60 MSF staff worked on this outbreak and two case management centers were established. The MSF teams have activated an exit plan.


Update: November 20, 2014

On September 29, a case of Marburg fever was declared in Uganda. MSF has helped reinforce local capacities for treating confirmed cases and for infection control. No new cases of the disease have been declared since. 


Update: November 20, 2014

Mali confirmed its first case of Ebola on October 23. So far there have been seven reported deaths in the country (including the first case): five confirmed with Ebola and two suspected cases. To date, 360 contacts have been identified and nearly all have been placed under surveillance.

In Bamako, MSF is running a CMC in collaboration with CNAM, Mali’s national disease center. The only confirmed Ebola patient admitted to this facility recently died. The case was detected on November 11 and the patient was immediately admitted to the facility. There is one more suspected case currently at the CMC.

MSF has reinforced its team and expanded its activities to help stop the disease spreading further. MSF is training Malian staff from CNAM to manage Ebola cases, and is overseeing the organization of an ambulance system and safe burials.

No specific treatment or vaccine is yet available for Ebola.

Symptoms of Ebola

Early on, symptoms are nonspecific, making it difficult to diagnose.

The disease is often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, feeling weak, muscle pain, headaches, and a sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and, in some cases, internal and external bleeding.

Symptoms can appear from two to 21 days after exposure. Some patients may go on to experience rashes, red eyes, hiccups, chest pains, difficulty breathing, and swallowing.

Diagnosing Ebola

Diagnosing Ebola is difficult because the early symptoms, such as red eyes and rashes, are common.

Ebola infections can only be diagnosed definitively in the laboratory by five different tests.

Such tests are an extreme biohazard risk and should be conducted under maximum biological containment conditions. A number of human-to-human transmissions have occurred due to a lack of protective clothing. 

“Health workers are particularly susceptible to catching it so, along with treating patients, one of our main priorities is training health staff to reduce the risk of them catching the disease while caring for patients,” said Henry Gray, MSF’s emergency coordinator, during an outbreak of Ebola in Uganda in 2012.

“We have to put in place extremely rigorous safety procedures to ensure that no health workers are exposed to the virus—through contaminated material from patients or medical waste infected with Ebola.”

Treating Ebola

No specific treatment or vaccine is yet available for Ebola.

Standard treatment for Ebola is limited to supportive therapy. This consists of hydrating the patient, maintaining their oxygen status and blood pressure, and treating him or her for any complicating infections.

Despite the difficulty of diagnosing Ebola in its early stages, those who display its symptoms should be isolated and public health professionals notified. Supportive therapy can continue with proper protective clothing until samples from the patient are tested to confirm infection.

MSF contained an outbreak of Ebola in Uganda in 2012 by placing a control area around the treatment center.

An Ebola outbreak is officially considered at an end once 42 days have elapsed without any new confirmed cases.

Risk of Ebola Spreading

The risk of Ebola spreading to the US is minimal, but to minimize it even further we need more resources to bring the outbreak under control in West Africa. 

Before this outbreak, MSF has treated hundreds of people affected by Ebola in Uganda, Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan, Gabon, and Guinea. In 2007, MSF entirely contained an epidemic of Ebola in Uganda.

"I was collecting blood samples from patients. We did not have enough protective equipment to use [and] I developed the same symptoms,” says Kiiza Isaac, a nurse from Uganda.

On November 19, 2007, I received laboratory confirmation—I had contracted Ebola.

"MSF came to Bundibugyo and they ran a treatment center. Many patients were cared for. Thank God, I survived. After my recovery, I joined MSF."

It is estimated there have been over 1,800 cases of Ebola, with nearly 1,300 deaths.

The Ebola virus was first associated with an outbreak of 318 cases of a hemorrhagic disease in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1976. Of the 318 cases, 280 died—and died quickly. That same year, 284 people in Sudan also became infected with the virus, killing 156.

The Ebola virus is made up of five species: Bundibugyo, Ivory Coast, Reston, Sudan, and Zaire, named after their places of origin. Four of these five have caused disease in humans. While the Reston virus can infect humans, no illnesses or deaths have been reported.

MSF has treated hundreds of people affected by Ebola in UgandaRepublic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan, Gabon, and Guinea. In 2007, MSF entirely contained an epidemic of Ebola in Uganda.

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