Ebola was first isolated in 1976 during the first recorded outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo known as Zaire at the time. The West African outbreak of 2014 is the largest since it was isolated. The virus was named Ebola after a river near the village where the first documented case occurred.
The below table shows previous outbreaks of Ebola including the strain and the mortality rate per outbreak. The mortality rate of the Reston strain is far lower than other strains. It is widely believed that the Reston strain could be utilised and patents to this affect are already in the public domain.
|2002–2003||Republic of the Congo||EBOV||143||128||90.00%|
|2003||Republic of the Congo||EBOV||35||29||83.00%|
|2007||Democratic Republic of the Congo||EBOV||264||187||71.00%|
|2008–2009||Democratic Republic of the Congo||EBOV||32||14||45.00%|
|2012||Democratic Republic of the Congo||BDBV||77||36||47.00%|
Limited studies have concluded that the virus may be considerably older. A study observing RNA mutations placed the potential early strains of the virus at around 800 years old. Ebola outbreaks have traditionally been limited to small villages and residents have been observed implementing isolation of the sick without the intervention of Western medicine.
The plague of Athens ending 430 B.C. has been compared to an ancient Ebola virus. Historical accounts of the plague cite symptoms similar to Ebola most notably an “empty cough” which is not consistent with other possible diseases including small pox and measles. There is insufficient evidence to fully understand the exact cause of the plague.
Ebola may have existed for thousands of years without human knowledge. Prior to the 2014 outbreak, the virus was considered likely to burn out quickly due to low incubation periods and sudden deterioration of an infected individual to death. The 2014 strain appears to have a slightly longer incubation period which has given rise to the suspicion it has mutated.