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.  

Latest News from the West Africa Outbreak

Ebola: Latest MSF Updates

WHO: Widespread and Intense Transmission (as of September 6, 2014)













Sierra Leone









MSF Case Numbers


Date of info

Admissions since start of activities*






8 Sept





8 Sept







8 Sept







5 Sept




Monrovia (ELWA 3)

7 Sept









According to WHO, from August 19 to 20, 142 new cases and 77 deaths were reported.

Since the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was officially declared on 22 March in Guinea, it has claimed 2,296 lives. The outbreak is the largest ever, and is now raging unabated. Five countries are currently affected: Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Senegal.

Despite the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the epidemic an “international public health emergency,” world leaders are failing to address the crisis and the international response remains lethally inadequate. MSF teams on the ground are seeing critical gaps in all aspects of the response, including medical care, training of health staff, infection control, contact tracing, epidemiological surveillance, alert and referral systems, community education and mobilisation.

At a UN briefing on September 2, MSF called for states with biological-disaster response capacity, including civilian and military medical capability, to dispatch assets and specialist medical units to West Africa as a matter of urgency if the virus is to be prevented from spreading further.

MSF has been responding to the outbreak since March, and currently has a total of 1,860 staff working in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Senegal, treating a rapidly increasing number of patients. 

PBS NewsHour: Ebola Efforts Need More People in the Field

MSF’s West Africa Ebola response started in March and now counts activities in five countries: Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. MSF currently employs 210 international and 1,650 locally hired staff in the region. The organization operates five Ebola management centers, providing a total of 457 hospital beds in isolation. Since the beginning of the outbreak MSF has admitted 2,615 patients, among whom 1,408 were confirmed cases of Ebola and 342 survived. More than 422 tonnes of supplies were shipped to the affected countries since March. As things stand the estimated budget for MSF’s activities until the end of 2014 is 40.5 million euros. 

Sierra Leone

Update: September 11, 2014

In Kailahun, after a lull in admissions, the 72-bed facility is full again and the team has had to stop admissions several times as there was no more space. The capacity is 60 beds for confirmed and 12 beds for suspects. In Kailahun, MSF admitted 472 patients; 318 were confirmed with Ebola and 89 recovered.

In Bo MSF is finalizing the construction of a new 30-bed Ebola management center to care for the growing number of cases identified in the region and to relieve the pressure on Kailahun. When that center starts operation next week, MSF will be able to close the transit center it has been operating next to the MSF hospital in Gondama.


Update: September 11, 2014

The team in Monrovia is completely overwhelmed by the high number of Ebola patients seeking treatment. MSF's largest-ever case management center already has capacity for 160 patients and will soon be able to admit 200 people. However, even with further growth it will not keep pace with the spread of the virus. It is estimated that there is a need for 1,200 beds in Monrovia, where currently only 240 beds are available (200 for confirmed cases and 40 beds for suspects).

Every day the team in Monrovia has to turn away patients who are desperate for care. People arrive on foot, in taxis, and in ambulances, pleading to be admitted, but the team can do little more than offer them a home hygiene kit containing, among other things, a gown, gloves, and soap, so that they can be cared for by their families with less chance of infecting them. All other treatment facilities in the city are also full.

Inside the center the medical staff are so overwhelmed that they are only able to offer basic medical care to their patients and cannot administer IV lines.

The number of recovered patients has continued to rise this week to 52, including a mother from Westpoint and three children.

In the north of the country, in Lofa county, MSF continues to operate a 100-bed Ebola management center in Foya. In the last few days, we have seen a slight reduction in the number of new patients coming to the centre. However, the team is preparing for a new peak of patients, as all the centers in the surrounding areas have shown an increase in admissions. There are currently 30 patients in the center. As more resources have arrived in Foya, MSF will be able to review and reorganize the outreach activities allowing the team to respond to the evolution of the epidemic.

Counselling activities for staff were recently started thanks to the arrival of a mental health team. MSF is also providing counseling for patients and their relatives.

Since beginning activities in Foya, MSF has admitted 559 patients, 317 were confirmed with Ebola and 46 recovered.


Update: September 11, 2014

The situation is worsening in Guinea, with admissions still on the rise and more districts affected by the epidemic. In the past fortnight, MSF has doubled the number of beds in its Ebola management centers, but still lacks the capacity to admit all those suspected of having the disease. “In the Guéckédou area, we have been forced to slow down outreach activities because we couldn’t admit every suspected patient,” says Marc Poncin, MSF emergency coordinator in Conakry. Guéckédou ETC capacity is 80 beds.

Following a recent surge of cases in the Macenta region, MSF is supporting a transit center in Macenta, where suspected patients can be isolated before being transferred to the management center in Guéckédou, a few hours’ drive away. Currently, 80 percent of the patients in Guéckédou come from Macenta. There is not enough bed capacity in Guéckédou to be able to admit confirmed patients. The team is trying to increase bed capacity.

In Guéckédou, MSF admitted 693 patients, 336 were confirmed with Ebola and 93 recovered.

After an increase of cases in Conakry last week, the number of patients in the ETC (bed capacity 45) fell again this week. The team needs to be prepared for a possible rise of cases. In Donka, MSF admitted 401 patients, 140 were confirmed with Ebola and 63 recovered.

Donka hospital in Conakry and our Ebola management centre in Gueckedou have become training centres for national staff, and are the referral centres for the whole country.


Update: September 11, 2014

MSF is providing technical support to Nigerian health authorities in Lagos, in areas including isolation, contact tracing, training and public education.


Update: September 11, 2014

MSF is providing technical support to Senegalese health authorities. 

What causes Ebola?

Ebola can be caught from both humans and animals. It is transmitted through close contact with blood, secretions, or other bodily fluids.

Health care workers have frequently been infected while treating Ebola patients. This has occurred through close contact without the use of gloves, masks, or protective goggles.

In areas of Africa, infection has been documented through the handling of infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope, and porcupines found dead or ill in the rainforest.

Burials where mourners have direct contact with the deceased can also transmit the virus, whereas transmission through infected semen can occur up to seven weeks after clinical recovery.

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 characterised 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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