The recent scare reminded me of earlier Ebola panics. In 1980, during my first few weeks in Tanzania, overland travellers staying at the Moravian Youth Hostel in Mbeya came bearing hair-raising tales of what was then dubbed 'Green Monkey Disease', a killer infection that had led to periodic closures of the roads through the southern Sudan. Although I didn't know it then, this was a variety of Ebola, the virus named after its discovery in 1976 near the headwaters of the Ebola River in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC). The first recorded Sudanese outbreak occurred in the same year, and killed more than 150 people. It was followed by another in 1979, and it was this recurrence (which resulted in 22 fatalities) that had affected the travel plans of my fellow hostellers. Otherwise I didn't really become aware of Ebola by name until the mid-1990s, when there were further cases in Zaire. The Kikwit outbreak in 1995, which killed 250 people, was widely reported in the press and was said to have led to tourist cancellations throughout the region, especially in countries and territories whose names also began with the letter 'Z' (like Zambia and Zimbabwe). One of these was Zanzibar, where I was living and working at the time.
|The Ebola virus|
(Dr. Frederick Murphy)
* For more sober information about Ebola and Marburg, including details of all the confirmed outbreaks, readers should refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website and the pages for Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever and Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever respectively.
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