What is Ebola?
Ebola is a deadly but historically rare virus that attacks humans and primates. It causes bleeding inside and outside the body and is commonly referred to as hemorrhagic fever. First documented in 1976 when it was discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo formally Zaire, the outbreak resulted in 280 deaths (88% Mortality) before the CDC was able to contain the outbreak. A related species of Ebola killed 151 people later that year in Sudan.
Ebola is incredibly lethal with early outbreaks resulting in death rates above 80% and in some cases 90%. However, the 2014 strain appears to have a lower mortality rate based on initial information and data available. There is currently no known vaccine, cure or treatment and as such patients are quarantined to prevent the spread of the virus.
The exact mechanisms by which Ebola spreads are not clear but it is thought that the first human case in an outbreak results from contact with infected animal meat. Human to Human transmission is believed to occur via bodily fluids and at this stage there are no confirmations of an airborne strain. It should be noted that Ebola can survive outside the host for several days according to some studies but no clear study has been done on the potential for the virus to transmit via these methods.
Doctors are able to test for the Ebola virus by searching for anti-bodies in a blood sample but usually test for more common diseases with similar symptoms before testing for Ebola. The virus itself can also be detected in a blood sample though the procedure may not be freely available in all countries and particularly in developing nations which are most vulnerable to the virus.