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How An Epidemic Unfolded: An Ebola Timeline

Ebola heath care worker
Creative Commons


The fast-spreading Ebola outbreak in West Africa dominated health news headlines in 2014. As the disease ravaged countries with few health care resources, international aid groups scrambled to provide relief. The year ends with a US military presence based in Liberia, trials on a new vaccine, and over 7,000 deaths. Here’s a look back at major developments in that region and here at home:

March 25, 2014 Three months after a two-year old boy died of an unidentified hemorrhagic fever in the West African country of Guinea, the government of Guinea, the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control announced an outbreak of Zaire ebolavirus, or Ebola and in southeastern Guinea with 59 deaths.

August 8, 2014 The WHO declared an international public health emergency. By then, Ebola had spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria; with 1700 reported cases and 900 deaths.

Early September, 2014 The National Institutes of Health began clinical trials of an Ebola vaccine that has shown to be effective in monkeys. Results are expected in January 2015.

September 16, 2014 President Obama announced $175 million in aid to be directed to West Africa and the establishment of a military command center in Liberia. He promised to send thousands of military personnel to the region to train local health care workers, build hospitals, and deliver supplies.

October 2, 2014 Thomas Eric Duncan becomes the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. Texas health officials estimate that 100 people had contact with him since he arrived in the country from Libera, sparking a national debate about Ebola screening at airports and quarantines. The following week, Duncan died in a Dallas hospital.  Two nurses who cared for Duncan, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, contracted the virus, but both were declared Ebola-free three weeks later.

October 20, 2014 The nations of Senegal and Nigeria announced their Ebola-free status.

December, 2014 The virus has receded from American headlines, but the epidemic continues to spread in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, and the death toll has reached over 7,000. One note of hope has emerged from the epidemic: Officials with aid agencies are noting that the emergency response may serve to build up West Africa's healthcare system in the long run.