What you need to know about Ebola

An overview of our coverage and resources on the outbreak

The Ebola outbreak that began in West Africa in December 2013 has infected nearly 10,000 people and killed more than 4,800—making it the deadliest outbreak of the virus since it was first identified in 1976. (By comparison, the next largest outbreak of Ebola infected 425 people and killed 224.)

The Daily Briefing has been tracking the Ebola outbreak since early 2014, and the Advisory Board's experts have created myriad resources for hospitals to help them prepare for the potential cases and reassure their communities about the disease.

Here's an overview of our top coverage and resources.

What is Ebola?

The Ebola virus disease is a hemorrhagic fever that causes severe illness in humans. The average fatality rate of Ebola is about 50%, but fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in various outbreaks, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The virus is transmitted between humans by direct exposure—i.e. via broken skin or mucous membranes—to the bodily fluids of infectious patients. The incubation period of the virus is between two and 21 days; the virus is not considered contagious until a patient begins to exhibit symptoms, which can include fever, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and more.

Why Ebola health care workers so often become Ebola patients

There is no known cure for the virus and no approved vaccine. Patients infected with the virus are given supportive care to help them battle the infection.

How did the current Ebola outbreak spread?

The current outbreak is believed to have started when a child contracted the virus in December 2013 in Guinea. By the end of March 2014, more than 100 cases had been identified in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, and local officials sounded the alarm about a potentially growing outbreak.

Unlike past outbreaks, officials say this outbreak has been able to "jump" and evade health workers' containment efforts because travel within African countries has become easier. Moreover, the outbreak's epicenter was in West Africa, unlike past outbreaks, which largely occurred in Central Africa. West African governments are not as well-equipped to identify and respond to an Ebola outbreak as their Central African neighbors, officials say.

Our timeline: How the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history spread

During the summer, two U.S. hospitals—Emory University Hospital and Nebraska Medical Center—agreed to care for patients transported from West Africa.

The virus arrived in the United States in late September, when a Liberian national was diagnosed with the disease in Dallas, Texas. Since then, two nurses who cared for the patient have contracted the virus.

What's the latest on the outbreak?

For the latest updates on the Ebola outbreak, see today's Daily Briefing. Some of our recent updates include:

At Ebola's epicenter, the situation is dire
Mali reported its first case of Ebola this week, making it the sixth West African nation to confirm a case. In one country—Liberia—the virus has killed more than 2,700 people.

Across the country, hospitals prepare to become 'Ebola centers'
Health authorities plan to send any future Ebola cases in the United States to specialized Ebola hospitals. But which hospitals will serve as these Ebola centers—and what does it mean for hospitals not selected?

Would a travel ban help contain Ebola?
Some lawmakers are calling for a ban on travel from Ebola-stricken West African countries, but health experts say that a ban would hamper U.S. efforts to contain the outbreak at its source.

How Nigeria stopped Ebola in its tracks
It's been one month since the last case of Ebola was discharged from a Nigerian treatment center. Nigerian public health expert Faisal Shuaib explains how the country was able to contain the outbreak.

How should hospitals be preparing?

Our experts have compiled these resources to help your organization tackle Ebola, including:

Top resources for Ebola readiness
The Nursing Executive Center has pulled together the most helpful resources on how you can ready your organization to safely manage and prevent the spread of Ebola.

Hospital preparedness for Ebola: 5 lessons so far
Our research team has launched a new project, including interviews and a survey, to surface specific challenges and emerging solutions. Read our five early findings.

Three Ebola messages that hospitals should share with their communities
The five U.S. hospitals that have cared for Ebola patients had to manage massive public scrutiny, too. In a Q&A, Alicia Daugherty explains what all hospitals can do to reassure their communities right now.