‘Ebola is terrifying – and proves how unprepared we are for epidemics’

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Ebola Virus Disease is one of those rare infections that is so sinister and appalling that it inspires Hollywood movies and bestselling thrillers.

In brief: Ebola is terrifying.

It sporadically emerges from the African jungle and is famous not for the numbers of people affected – since its discovery in 1976 we have recorded less than 3,000 infections – but for its shocking effects: untreated, the most virulent strains of Ebola virus kills 90 per cent of the people it infects. The time from infection to death can be as little as a few days, and the deaths are painful and appalling as it is a haemorrhagic fever: victims bleed uncontrollably. There is no vaccine, and no cure, so the only treat we can currently offer is “supportive care”: fluids, pain relief, management of clotting problems.

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