Monday, August 11, 2014


I received a text message that  read: “You’ve worked as an epidemiologist, right? I need the scoop on this Ebola stuff because it terrifies me!” Fortunately, I’ve never actually seen a case of Ebola—and will be very happy never to do so—although I have spent the majority of my healthcare career in some branch of epidemiology. Because my texter (is that a word?) isn’t the only person wondering about Ebolavirus, which is front and center in the news, I’ll devote this week’s blogs to Ebola HF, just one of many viral hemorrhagic fevers. Reportedly first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River (hence its name) in what is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it is a severe—often fatal—disease that attacks humans and nonhuman primates. The disease is believed caused by infection with a virus of the family Filoviridae, genus Ebolavirus. There are five identified subspecies, four of which have caused disease in humans and a fifth that so far has caused disease only in nonhuman primates (e.g., monkeys, chimpanzees, and gorillas). The five subspecies are:

  • Ebola virus (Zaire ebolavirus)
  • Sudan virus (Sudan ebolavirus)
  • Tai Forest virus (Tai Forest ebolavirus)
  • Bundibugyo virus (Bundibugyo ebolavirus), formerly Côte d’Ivoire ebolavirus
  • Reston virus (Reston ebolavirus)

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