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Ebola virus: What you need to know about the deadly outbreak

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The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses currently recognizes four species of Ebola: Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV), Sudan ebolavirus (SUDV), Reston ebolavirus (RESTV), and Taï Forest ebolavirus (TAFV).One additional species or type of Ebola is often recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as Bundibugyo ebolavirus (BDBV) or Ebola-Bundibugyo, following the outbreak in Uganda in 2007

Ebola outbreaks have been restricted to Africa with the exception of Reston ebolavirus. However, on 30 September 2014 a patient in Dallas, Texas who had recently travelled to Liberia in west Africa may have been infected with the same strain involved in the 2014 outbreak in that country.

Transmission between natural reservoirs and humans is rare, and outbreaks are often traceable to a single case where an individual has handled the carcass of a gorilla, chimpanzee, or duiker. The virus then spreads person-to-person, especially within families, hospitals, and during some mortuary rituals where contact among individuals becomes more likely. Before outbreaks are confirmed in areas of weak surveillance on the local or regional levels, Ebola is often mistaken for malaria, typhoid fever, dysentery, influenza, or various bacterial infections which may be endemic to the region. Learning from failed responses, such as that to the 2000 Uganda outbreak, public health measures including the WHO's Global Outbreak and Response Network were instituted in areas at high risk. Field laboratories were established in order to confirm cases, instead of shipping samples to South Africa.

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