LIBREVILLE, Gabon-Within the central African jungle, the mysterious virus Ebola has once again emerged, killing 27 in two countries within the last month.
Government officials in Gabon confirmed the death of a mother and child in the village of Mekambo this week. Health officials have withdrawn from the area after fielding complaints from villagers who reportedly blame their difficulties on outsiders.
Ebola, after being recognized in 1976 in Democratic Republic of Congo, has claimed hundreds of lives in multiple outbreaks across the African continent. Each panic-filled outbreak sends infection control experts to the scene, leaving them only to scratch their heads in confusion.
Ebola, just like a typical virus, is tricky. Its cause and its source of origin are unknown. The reason it flares up in isolated communities with no common thread is also unknown. In addition, there is no known cure.
It kills by dehydrating its victims. Those afflicted then go into shock and die quickly from loss of fluids. Frequently, they infect those around them because the Ebola virus is more infectious than AIDS. The viral fever is spread by contact with infected body fluids.
Officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) are trying to contain more than 200 contacts of those infected. Health officials are having a difficult time keep people calm-one woman, infected and bleeding, left the quarantine in Gabon for a family's home in the Republic of Congo. Her travels may be responsible for the virus' jump across the border.
Researchers say the latest outbreak may have been caused by a Christmas tradition of eating chimpanzee and gorilla meat-both considered delicacies in Gabon. The virus may have been transmitted to the first host from contaminated meat.
Until the outbreak is contained, health officials must patiently wait and attempt to limit further contact of those infected and those who have remained healthy. Generally, Ebola outbreak fatalities are limited because the virus kills so quickly. It typically burns its self out before it can infect a large number of people.