Ebola is back in Africa, but do we need to worry about it becoming a pandemic?

Vivek Mishra
Vivek MishraSep 26, 2022 | 13:00

Ebola is back in Africa, but do we need to worry about it becoming a pandemic?

The average case fatality rate in Ebola is extremely high at around 50%. (Photo: Getty Images)

Africa is seeing another resurgence of the deadly Ebola virus. Uganda on Sunday (September 25) said its Ebola caseload has jumped to 16 and four people have succumbed to the disease. Uganda's health ministry also said that 18 others have the symptoms and 17 people who have died recently have been also classified as probable cases of Ebola.

The 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak killed over 11,000 people and it spread to many African countries and became a global epidemic within months. But it has never become a pandemic like Covid-19 because it is not as contagious. Also, because the death rate is so high, people are much less likely to travel and spread it to other parts of the world. Which is why Ebola has mostly been limited to African countries.

Uganda had declared an Ebola outbreak last week after a case of the rare Sudan strain was detected in the country on September 15. The 24-year-old from the Mubende district has died.

Symptoms: The symptoms of Ebola may include fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases internal and external bleeding.

What to do if you have Ebola: Even though the fatality rate is very high, those infected with Ebola have a better chance of surviving if they are rehydrated with oral or intravenous fluids. Two monoclonal antibodies (Inmazeb and Ebanga) were approved for the treatment of Zaire Ebolavirus infection by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2020.

How does it spread? The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals (such as fruit bats, porcupines and primates) and then spreads in the human population through direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials ( bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.

Vaccines: The Ervebo vaccine has been shown to be effective in protecting people from the species Zaire Ebolavirus and in December 2020, the vaccine was approved by the US FDA and prequalified by the WHO for use in individuals of 18 years of age and older for protection against Ebola virus disease caused by Zaire Ebola virus.

How to control the outbreak: According to the WHO, to keep the virus from spreading quickly, a series of steps like infection prevention, case management, surveillance and contact tracing, good laboratory service and safe burials should be taken. People taking care of Ebola patients, especially the health workers, should be extra careful.


Ebola guidelines in India: One case of the Ebola virus was reported in India in 2014 when an Indian male travelling from Liberia was diagnosed with the virus. During the last Ebola outbreak, India had asked those travelling to India from Ebola-affected countries to carry a certificate stating that there is no evidence of the virus in their body fluids.

The National Centre for Disease Control, Delhi, and National Institute of Virology, Pune, are the nodal testing agencies for testing the Ebola virus in India. No fresh guidelines have been issued by India so far as the current outbreak is limited to Africa only for now.

What is Ebola? Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness affecting humans and other primates. The average case fatality rate in Ebola is extremely high at around 50%. According to WHO, case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.

The Sudan strain: The World Health Organization has said the Ebola Sudan strain is less transmissible and has shown a lower fatality rate in previous outbreaks than Ebola Zaire, a strain that killed nearly 2,300 people in the 2018-2020 epidemic in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ebola outbreak: Even though the virus was first discovered in 1976, the 2014–2016 outbreak in West Africa was the deadliest and most complex. There were more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined. Over 11,000 people were killed in West Africa between 2013 and 2016 due to the Ebola virus.

Last updated: September 26, 2022 | 13:00
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