Since March 2014, an outbreak of Ebola virus has been plaguing West African nations. Due to intense international travel the virus has the potential to quickly spread across the globe, and while it has only affected West Africa over 800 people have died.

The current outbreak of Ebola originated in Guinea, and spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia and recently Nigeria, when Liberian-American man, Patrick Sawyer, travelled from Liberia to Lagos. Upon arrival in Lagos, he began showing signs of the virus, and passed away. Since Sawyer’s case, others in Nigeria have shown symptoms of Ebola.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a state of emergency, and is calling for the support of the international community in curbing the epidemic.

In a recent press conference, Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the WHO, said that the international community needs to be taking action to stop the epidemic, as the countries it is currently affecting may not have all the resources necessary to do so.

The Nigerian government has responded to Ebola entering the country by quarantining people who have contracted the virus, and by banning flights from Liberia and Sierra Leone. However, more measures could be put into place, as people entering and leaving the country by road are not being stopped. Other people have contracted the virus since it entered Nigeria, and two health care workers have died.

Previous Epidemics

Ebola is considered to be especially lethal because there is no vaccine for the virus. The virus is transmitted through fluids, not air, and some people may not show symptoms for two or three weeks after they are infected, which leads to transmission by latent carriers.

Ebola has emerged less than forty times in the past, the earliest recorded cases being in the 1970s. In every previous epidemic, less than 500 people died, making the current epidemic is the most deadly Ebola epidemic to date, with over 1750 people dead.

Current Risks

People in countries outside of West Africa are said to not be at an increased risk for Ebola, even given international travel. However, Western nations are under pressure from the UN to provide aid in the ongoing epidemic. Countries who have the resources to aid the problem are being called upon to do so, even if their own citizens are not directly affected by the epidemic.

Recently two Americans infected in Liberia were brought back to the US for treatment. International support could lead to the same level of care in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The US has assured the public that hospitals have the capability to effectively isolate the infected people, and treat them. However, some people in the US and EU feel that Ebola patients should be treated where they contracted the virus, to prevent potential overseas spread.

Western African governments could do more to help curb the spread of Ebola in the region. In addition, outside governments could offer more support than is currently been given. With the virus still continuing to spread, and the death toll being unprecedentedly high, action needs to be taken to ensure the epidemic remains geographically contained, and will end soon.