The current outbreak, which began more than a year ago and was declared a global health emergency in July, is now the second biggest in history. More than 3,100 cases have been diagnosed, and more than 2,100 people have died. The only larger Ebola epidemic was the one that raged in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, infecting more than 28,000 people and killing more than 11,000.
Ebola victims first show signs of a fever, but before long, they have terrible stomach pains and start vomiting. They begin bleeding internally, as the virus attacks vital organs. The skin erupts in bruises and large blisters. In some cases, blood pours from the nose and eyes. Without treatment, about 60 percent of victims die, usually within a week.
Because the bodies of those who die are highly contagious, they need to be handled as little as possible and burials need to be conducted only by trained people wearing protective gear.
Until now, the only way to stop an outbreak has been to isolate infected patients, trace everyone they’ve been in contact with, quarantine every person on that list who gets sick, and then keep repeating the process until, finally, there are no more cases. But now, officials hope that by giving the new vaccine to as many people as possible in the areas surrounding the outbreak, they can stop the disease from spreading.