Currently we are faced with two major threats from viral diseases: Over the last 30 years HIV has spread across the world and continues to plague us. Over the last 3 months the hemorrhagic fever caused by the Ebola virus has spread across West Africa killing thousands of people. If we are to contain HIV in the long-run and Ebola, hopefully, in a much shorter time, this will depend on our ability to understand the nature of the threat and the strategies of the disease causing organisms.
The evolutionary origin of Ebolaviruses is not very clear. The simple notion that these viruses have been circulating for many millennia in wildlife in tropical parts of Africa, occasionally spilling over into human populations, often brought on by human activities, may not be correct or at least incomplete. Over time a number of Ebola disease outbreaks reported and a pattern in the outbreak response seemed to have been established. A lot was also learnt about Ebola viruses, their epidemiology and ecology.
However, the 2014 Ebola outbreak challenges our understanding in many respects.
Once more we are hearing about ‘exponential growth’ – popularly some sort of synonym for ‘rapid growth’ or ‘explosive growth’ – but actually a technical term with a quite specific meaning. This time the talk is about the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa, understandably causing increasing disruption (is devastation too strong a word?) in the region, and alarm much further afield.