First identified in 1976, Ebola virus disease (EVD) may have passed to humans through fruit bats. The rare and serious virus is spread by direct contact with the bodily fluids of those infected, both human and animal. Highly contagious, with a death rate of up to 90%, this devastating disease affects the immune system, major organs, and gastrointestinal system, sometimes resulting in extensive internal and external bleeding. It gets its name from the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where the virus was first recognized.
In 2014 an outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa took over 11,000 lives. The most widespread outbreak to date, it required extensive international coordination to contain. Although there have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in Alberta, there were a number of potential cases investigated during the 2014 outbreak. The outbreak raised questions about the preparedness of the province’s frontline health workers in the face of a major epidemic.
There have been other Ebola outbreaks in the DRC since 2014, including one in 2017, and another in 2018. The most recent outbreak was declared in August 2018 and is already the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. As of January 2019, nearly 300 people have died and over 200 more are infected.