The Ebola Virus was first documented in 1976 when two outbreaks occurred in Sudan (now Sudan and South Sudan) and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). The virus was named after the Ebola river in Zaire which runs nearby the Yambuku village which suffered the second ever outbreak of the virus. Ebola is a member of the Filoviridae family of viruses and is poorly documented and understood when compared to more common diseases.
Three common strains of Ebola were observed during earlier outbreaks namely Sudan, Zaire and Reston. The Reston strain is of particular interest being the only strain to exhibit fully airborne traits. Later, the Côte d’Ivoire strain was discovered when a ethologist infected herself while performing a necropsy on a chimpanzee in 1994. The 2014 Ebola outbreak was caused by the Zaire strain of Ebola. The virus is Zoonotic and usually found in animal reservoirs with human infections resulting from accidental infection in laboratories or the consumption of incorrectly prepared “bush meat”.
The first known Filovirus was Marburg which was discovered in 1967 during an outbreak in West Germany (now Germany). Marburg is similar to Ebola and outbreaks are rare. Uganda has a history of Marburg outbreaks which are typically contained rapidly through isolation and contact tracing. It is generally thought that Filoviridae have existed for thousands of years based on DNA evidence. Several ancient viruses share genetic material with modern examples of the virus family and some theories have been put forward suggesting that the “Plague of Athens” and the “Black Death” may have resulted from a Filovirus similar to Ebola.
Several conspiracy theories have suggested that Ebola may have been manufactured for use as a bio weapon. There is very little evidence to support such claims. After the discovery of Marburg and Ebola several documents have been declassified evidencing attempts to weaponize the virus however no success has been documented.