Ebola, a hemorrhagic fever that can cause its victims to bleed from the ears and nose, has turned up in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa. The key to halting Ebola, one of the world's most deadly diseases, is isolating the sick, but fear and panic have sent some patients into hiding, complicating efforts to stop its spread. The disease has killed at least 539 people and this is the largest outbreak on record.
Spread of disease: Guinea first notified the World Health Organization about the emergence of Ebola in March and soon after cases were reported in neighboring Liberia. Two months later people began falling ill in Sierra Leone. "There are no cases from outside Africa to date," said Dr. Unni Krishnan, head of disaster preparedness for the aid group Plan International.
Source of disease: This Ebola virus is a new strain and did not spread from previous outbreaks in Uganda and Congo, researchers say. Many think it is linked to the human consumption of bats carrying the virus. Many who have fallen ill are family members of victims and health workers, all of whom had physical contact with the victims.
Treatment: There is no cure and no vaccine for Ebola, and those who have survived managed to do so only by receiving rehydration and other supportive treatment. Ebola's high fatality rate means many of those brought to health clinics have been merely kept as comfortable as possible in quarantine as they await death.
Travel concerns: At the airport in Guinea's capital, Conakry, departing passengers must undergo temperature screening, and those with a fever are taken aside for further evaluation. Still, the stigma of Ebola follows Guineans well outside the region. A businessman says he was detained at the airport in Casablanca, Morocco, before continuing on to Paris
What's next: WHO officials are hopeful they will be able to get the situation under control in the next several weeks. A recent conference in Accra, the capital of Ghana, brought together health authorities from across the affected areas, and the countries agreed on a common approach to fight Ebola.