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The Ebola outbreak in West Africa was first reported in March 2014,

and has rapidly become the deadliest occurrence of the disease


since its discovery in 1976.
In fact, the current epidemic sweeping across the region has now killed more
than all other known Ebola outbreaks combined.
Up to 20 January, 8,690 people had been reported as having died from the
disease in six countries; Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the US and
Mali.
The total number of reported cases is more than 21 797.
The World Health Organization (WHO) admits the figures are
underestimates, given the difficulty collecting the data. WHO officials this
week discovered scores of bodies in a remote diamond-mining area of Sierra
Leone, raising fears that the scale of the Ebola outbreak may have been
underreported.
The WHO has declared the outbreaks in Nigeria and Senegal officially over,
as there have been no new cases reported since 5 September.
The Gueckedou prefecture in Guinea, where the outbreak started, is a major
regional trading centre and, by the end of March, Ebola had crossed the
border into Liberia. It was confirmed in Sierra Leone in May.
In June, MSF described the Ebola outbreak as out of control.
Nigeria had its first case of the disease in July and, in the same month, two
leading doctors died from Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
In August, the United Nations health agency declared an "international
public health emergency", saying that a co-ordinated response was
essential to halt the spread of the virus.
Senegal reported its first case of Ebola on 29 August. A young man from
Guinea had travelled to Senegal despite having been infected with the virus,
officials said.
By September, WHO director general Margaret Chan said the number of
patients was "moving far faster than the capacity to manage them".

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US,
Thomas Frieden, said in October that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was
unlike anything since the emergence of HIV/Aids.
Authorities in Mali confirmed the death of the country's first Ebola patient, a
two-year-old girl, on 25 October. The girl had travelled hundreds of
kilometres by bus from Guinea through Mali showing symptoms of the
disease, the WHO said.
Mali is currently battling a second wave of the deadly virus.
An infected Islamic preacher from Guinea, who was initially diagnosed with a
kidney problem, was treated at a clinic in Bamako. The preacher died a few
days after entering the country.
Two health workers who cared for the preacher also died after contracting
the virus. In total, Mali has recorded six deaths from Ebola.
*In all but three cases the patient was infected with Ebola while in West
Africa. Infection outside Africa has been restricted to health workers in
Madrid and in Dallas. DR Congo has also reported a separate outbreak of an
unrelated strain of Ebola.
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The first case of the deadly virus diagnosed on US soil was announced on 1
October. Thomas Eric Duncan, 42, who contracted the virus in Liberia before
travelling to the US, died on 8 October.
He had not displayed symptoms of the disease until 24 September, five days
after his arrival. Other people with whom he came into contact are being
monitored for symptoms.
Two medical workers in Dallas, Texas, who treated Duncan tested positive for
Ebola since his death but have both recovered.
Spanish nurse Teresa Romero was the first person to contract the virus
outside West Africa. She was part of a team of about 30 staff at the Carlos II
hospital in Madrid looking after two missionaries who returned from Liberia
and Sierra Leone after becoming infected.
Germany, Norway, France, Italy, Switzerland and the UK have all treated
patients who contracted the virus in West Africa.
Are cases levelling off?

Efforts to tackle Ebola have been hindered by fierce resistance from local
communities with a history of suspicion towards outside intervention.
This has enabled new chains of transmission to pop up.
The WHO says Guinea has reported its lowest weekly total of new confirmed
Ebola cases since the week ending 17 August 2014. Liberia has also had its
lowest weekly total since June.
Sierra Leone has reported a fall in the number of cases for the second week
running, and recorded its lowest weekly total of new cases since August.
2014 outbreak in context
Ebola was first identified in 1976 and occurs in regions of sub-Saharan Africa.
There are normally fewer than 500 cases reported each year, and no cases
were reported at all between 1979 and 1994.
In August 2014 the WHO confirmed a separate outbreak of Ebola in the
Democratic Republic of Congo. By the beginning of October there had been
70 cases reported and 43 deaths.
However, the outbreak in DR Congo is a different strain of the virus and
unrelated to the epidemic in West Africa, which now dwarfs all previous
outbreaks.