The Deadly Ebola Virus
Since the Ebola virus's discovery in 1976, more than 2,000 people have succumbed to the disease's 90 percent mortality rate. And although Ebola can't yet hold a candle to the Bubonic plague's death count, the physical effects are comparable in agony and terror. Spread through human-to-human or infected animal-to-human transmission, symptoms often appear as intense weakness, body rash, fever, impaired organ function and both internal and external bleeding. Generally limited to parts of Africa, Ebola outbreaks often occur abruptly. However, without proper treatment or quarantine measures, the disease can spread through tears in mucous membranes and victims can unknowingly contaminate people and animals around them—most often livestock and nonhuman primates. A 2014 outbreak in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia that resulted in more than 600 confirmed deaths was the first major rash of cases since a 2007 flare-up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, which resulted in more than 300 deaths.
Unfortunately, not enough is yet known about the Ebola virus to effectively treat patients beyond fluids, and rest. Scientists are still developing and testing vaccines that could save hundreds of people affected, though extensive research is needed before they're available to the public. What's worse: New strains of the disease are being discovered as scientific researchers learn more. Some less grim news: Your chances of being struck by a car or a coconut falling on your head are far greater than becoming infected by the Ebola virus.