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, July 17, 2015

WHO: Roadmap Situation Report (as of July 15, 2015)




Guinea (7/12/2015)



Liberia (7/12/2015)

10,666 + 7*

4,806 + 2

Sierra Leone (7/12/2015)






* new cases in Liberia as of June 6 include six confirmed cases and one probable case.

Data are based on official information reported by Ministries of Health. These numbers are subject to change due to ongoing reclassification, retrospective investigation, and availability of laboratory results. The figures are underestimated.

MSF Case Numbers


Date of info

Admissions since start of activities*





Conakry CMC

02 Jan




Guéckédou CMC

05 Jan




Telimele CMC








04 Jan




Kailahun CMC

03 Jan




Magburaka CMC

08 Jan




Freetown CMC

06 Jan




Kissy CMC 08 Jan 5 1 -



Monrovia (ELWA 3) CMC

29 Dec




Foya CMC





Quewein CMC










* Admissions include all suspected, probable, and confirmed cases. Anyone who is admitted is lab tested which can take 1–2 days for results to come back. If they are negative, they are discharged. So the total admissions includes people who are currently waiting for lab confirmation and people who never had Ebola but had symptoms and were therefore admitted to the suspected ward.

MSF Staff on the Ground (as of July 16, 2015)

  • Guinea: 40 international, approximately 1,100 national
  • Liberia: 23 international, around 260 national
  • Sierra Leone: 29 international, around 400 national
  • Total: 92 international, around 1,760 national

Since the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was officially declared on March 22, 2014, in Guinea, it has claimed more than 10,000 lives in the region. The outbreak is the largest ever, and is currently affecting three countries in West Africa: Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Outbreaks in Mali, Nigeria, and Senegal have been declared over. A separate outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has also ended.

Following the downward trend of new cases reported in MSF Ebola management centers across the three affected countries during the first weeks of 2015, the number of new cases has seen a slight increase. Surveillance remains weak: the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that during the last week only about 15 percent of new cases in Guinea are from known Ebola contacts. And in Sierra Leone the available data is limited; according to WHO, only 21 percent of new cases were from known contacts. There is almost no information sharing for tracing Ebola contacts between the three most-affected countries. Since a single new case is enough to reignite an outbreak, the level of vigilance should remain high in order not to jeopardize the progress made in stemming the epidemic.

Sierra Leone

Update: July 15, 2015

In Sierra Leone, the number of Ebola cases continues to fluctuate with 14 cases recorded in the past week and hotspots persisting in Western Area (Freetown), Port Loko, and Kambia districts. 


Freetown has seen a recent flare of Ebola with ten confirmed cases recorded in Western Area last week, the highest weekly total since March.

MSF has been running an Ebola Maternity Center in Hastings, with obstetric services specifically for Ebola-positive pregnant women in need of care. However, as other Ebola management centers in the city are reaching capacity, MSF´s maternity Ebola management center in Hastings is now also taking in non-pregnant suspected and confirmed Ebola cases, with six patients currently admitted.

Additionally in Freetown, MSF teams are focusing on outreach and surveillance activities, working in collaboration with the District Ebola Response Committee that responds to new cases and follows up with patients' contacts throughout the 21-day Ebola incubation period. The latest cases were all coming from the slum of Magazine Wharf, where MSF conducts contact tracing and health promotion activities. 


The "core” Ebola treatment center in Bo District receives all suspected patients from southern Sierra Leone, with a capacity to treat 12 confirmed cases and 12 suspected cases. Today the center receives five to ten suspected cases per week, mainly from the Bo District. MSF will keep the center open until the end of the epidemic.


With no patients in the last weeks, Magburaka Ebola treatment unit has been closed. A survivor clinic to respond to the needs of recovered patients will start soon. MSF teams also supported the district of Tonkili in the measles vaccination campaign. 


Update: July 15, 2015

After Liberia was declared Ebola free on May 9, a 17-year-old boy died on June 29. MSF is not directly involved in the patient care of the new cases, in the investigation or in the follow up of contacts, but it is ready to provide help to Liberian authorities and their partners, should they require it.

With the national health system decimated by the outbreak—and hundreds of Liberian health care workers dying from Ebola—MSF is focusing his activity in supporting the recovery of health facilities. We want to encourage Liberian people to feel confident they can go to hospital once again and have their health care needs looked after.


In Monrovia, MSF is currently running a 69-bed pediatric hospital in Monrovia to help restore the secondary health system, which, like those in Guinea and Sierra Leone, has been paralyzed following the deaths of hundreds of health workers.

On the grounds of the hospital, MSF also runs a clinic specifically for Ebola survivors who suffer from a number of health complications following their recovery from the virus. 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. Common complaints are joint pains and ophthalmic issues, for which MSF guarantees referral to external specialists.


Update: July 15, 2015

In Guinea, active chains of transmission persist in Conakry, Boké, and Forecariah. “We still have about 12 to 18 cases of Ebola per week in Guinea,” says Anna Halford, MSF Emergency Coordinator in Guinea. “Ebola cases continue to go undetected for too long, with 25 percent of positive cases identified after death in their communities in the past three weeks.”


In Conakry, MSF has moved from its previous Ebola management center in Donka to a new facility in Nongo and is continuing outreach activities across the city in order to combat rumors, fear, and fatigue. In MSF’s Nongo facility, patients have the option to receive plasma donated by survivors of Ebola which, after a trial enrolling 101 patients over the past few months, has been shown to have no ill effects. The results of plasma’s efficacy are not yet publicly available, but hopefully will be released by the researchers in the coming weeks.


In response to the recent outbreak in Boké in northern Guinea, MSF’s opened an Ebola management center on July 3. Of four patients admitted so far, one has been confirmed as Ebola-positive. The cluster is worrying given the risk of further geographic spread into neighboring Guinea-Bissau.


There have been 14 new cases identified in the last two weeks. MSF continues to do health promotion and outreach to communities.


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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