Via The New York Times: Ebola, Killing Scores in Guinea, Threatens Nearby Nations. Excerpt:
Most Ebola outbreaks have been in Central African countries. The first, in 1976 in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, killed 280 people. The most recent, in 2012 in Uganda, is thought to have killed fewer than 50.
The outbreak in Guinea is of the Zaire strain, which has a 90 percent mortality rate.
Death is caused by fever and internal bleeding. Human outbreaks usually start after hunters eat the carcass of an ape that died of Ebola — possibly after eating fruit contaminated by bats, which are the virus’s natural reservoir.
But inhabitants of the affected villages in Guinea also eat bats, “so it’s possible for it to skip the apes and go straight from bats to people,” Dr. [Armand] Sprecher said.
Once humans are infected, the virus spreads easily in bodily fluids from the sick or the dead.
Outbreaks are contained by isolating the ill and making sure that those treating them wear gloves, masks, goggles, hazardous material suits and other barriers against infection.
Medical teams also take over burials, since some traditional practices, like washing bodies by hand, can lead to infection.
Searching for the sick and educating the public about the danger are also crucial measures, because some people panic and flee during outbreaks and may carry the virus from town to town.
There is no cure, but many patients survive with supportive care.