09/07/2014 08:10 BST | Updated 09/07/2014 08:59 BST

Ebola Virus: How Does The Disease Spread And What Are The Symptoms?

Following the Ebola virus outbreak that has now killed 400 people in West Africa, an expert has warned that there may be a possibility of it spreading to Europe and the UK if it can't be contained in major cities.

Dr Derek Gatherer, a researcher at Lancaster University, told ITV News the main threat of Ebola would come from infected people travelling from major airports in West Africa to Europe.

But what is Ebola and why does it strike fear whenever it is mentioned?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Ebola or Ebola haemorrhagic fever is rare but it is severe and infectious, caused by a virus that was first recorded in 1976. It broke out in Nzara, Sudan, and Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo.

The reason for its deadly reputation is because once you have it, the chances of recovering are very slim - around a 10% rate. However if symptoms are detected early, there is a better chance.


Scientists believe it originated from fruit bats, antelopes and monkeys, and it passed to humans through blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals. In Africa, for instance, infection has transmitted from dead or ill animals.

"Ebola then spreads in the community through human-to-human transmission, with infection resulting from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids," writes the WHO.

Even burying the bodies requires care as the virus can still transmit if the dead body is touched, and men who have recovered can still pass on the virus seven weeks afterwards through their sperm.


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"Before Ebola can be identified as the disease affecting a person, other conditions including malaria, typhoid fever, cholera, and other haemorrhagic fevers must be ruled out," reports The Independent.

"Laboratory tests can then be used to confirm the disease, but these samples are an extreme biohazard and tests must be carried out under controlled conditions."

Symptoms begin very abruptly within five to 10 days of infection.

Take a look:

Photo gallery Symptoms of Ebola See Gallery