Clarion, Pa.- In 1918, the world cowered in fear over the spread of the Spanish Flu, an influenza pandemic that took the lives of over 75,000,000 people worldwide.
Over 60 years later, generations young and old struggle the fight against HIV/AIDS, an ongoing international epidemic that has claimed the lives of more than 30 milion people. Today, 1.6 million individuals are currently living with HIV.
Five years ago, the Swine Flu epidemic surfaced, killing over 14,000 people. Influenza pandemics are not a trend of the past, striking the corners of the world with no hesitation or warning.
According to the World Health Organization, today, the world is experiencing its largest Ebola virus outbreak.
The Center for Disease Control confirms that in the past year, there have been 3,974 laboratory confirmed cases of the Ebola virus in humans.
On Aug. 8, WHO declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern regarding the Ebola virus. On Sept. 29, when the case totals in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone surpassed 6,500 with 3,000 deaths, the United Nations decided to join governments and international partners in the formation of the United Nations Mission or Ebola Emergency Response.
This is the first time in history that the UN has created a mission for a declared public health emergency.
Regardless of the amount of media attention that the epidemic receives, there are still many questions about how the Ebola virus became such a threat to men, women and children across the globe, let alone questions about what the virus really is and how it can be transmitted.
Ebola, also known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is a rare and deadly disease that is caused by infection with one of the five Ebola virus strains.
The CDC reports that four of the five strains can cause disease in humans and believe that it is an animal-borne strain, origin still unknown.
Symptoms usually begin to appear two to 21 days after contact with an infected animal, direct contact i.e. blood, bodilyfluids, objects such as used syringes, of an infected person. Symptoms include fever greater than 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, severe headache, weakness, diarrhea, unexplained hemorrhage, abdominal pain or rash. These symptoms are commonly followed by kidney and liver failure or malfunction, internal and external bleeding, elevated liver enzymes and low white blood cell and platelet counts.
Experimental vaccines are under development at this point and time ,while symptoms are treated as they appear.
First cases of Ebola were found in 1976 near the Ebola River, hence its name, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
WHO reports that the last outbreak of Ebola prior to the current outbreak occurred in the virus birthplace in 2012, developing 57 cases and causing 29 deaths.
The largest outbreak prior to today was in Uganda in 2000, developing 425 cases and 224 deaths.
On Sept. 30, the CDC confirmed that the first traveled associated case of Ebola had been found in the United States.
Thomas Eric Duncan, who was traveling from Liberia to Dallas, Texas, to reunite with his son. He did not show any physical symptoms of the Ebola virus upon arrival.
On Oct. 8 at 7:51 a.m., Duncan died due to kidney failure and respiration issues, common syptoms of the ebola virus.
Eighty Penn State students from various campus locations, who had traveled throughout West Africa during the rise of the pandemic, were cleared of potentially having the disease according to university officials.
The students had completed a 21-day monitoring period, in which the disease should have started showing symptoms in infected individuals.
For more information about the Ebola virus outbreak, transmission, symptoms, diagnosis, development in vaccine research or updates on current Ebola cases, visit www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/en/ or www.cdc.gov.