You may have heard abut this latest ebola outbreak that is currently ravaging its way through West Africa.

Ebola was discovered in 1976, with a terrifying fatality rate, and symptoms which include bleeding from literally everywhere.

What we are seeing is the largest outbreak ever since the virus was first discovered. But that could mean anything, one more disease sufferer than the 2000 outbreak could qualify as the "largest ever".

Looking at just the bare numbers doesn't really get across how much more dangerous this new outbreak is in comparison to anything we've seen before. Which is why one of my former colleagues, in his spare time, put together this graph which takes into account the latest WHO data on the outbreak. I probably don't even need to point out why this graph is extraordinary. In 2014, the number of cases goes up so fast the line is nearly vertical*. The one silver lining is that the case fatality rate is lower than seen in some of the previous outbreaks, but it is still pretty huge.

EDIT: And as Mike in the comments points out, this could help the Ebola virus transmit more, because when sufferers live longer, it increase the numbers of people they can transmit infection to. Which makes me think that clouds with silver linings aren't necessarily good things, because in reality they'd rain down aqueous silver and poison people.


The worst part ? The epidemic hasn't been stopped, as efforts to contain the outbreak aren't as effective when the disease is so widespread and people are panicked, which just makes everything so much harder. This outbreak is something I'm going to keep my eye on.

Hat-tip to Dr Pascal Durrenberger


* thanks to all the commenters who pointed out that horizontal is not the same as vertical

EDIT 16/7/14: I talked to the author of this graph, who just informed me that this graph is out of date because 84 deaths occurred in the last week that aren't accounted for.