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Ebola Virus Advances In Wildfire-Like Pattern, Researchers Say

DENVER (CBS4) - Ebola outbreaks in western Africa spread similarly to how wildfire advances, Colorado experts have discovered.

"When a fire is burning here, it ignites its neighbors. So all around a little zone we have new ignition," Dr. Loren Cobb of the University of Colorado Denver said.

That's similar to how the Ebola virus has moved through cities and villages in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and other countries. As the population in those nations increases, residents dig further into undeveloped forests and come into contact with animals carrying the disease. They contract the virus and then spread it, like a brush fire, to neighbors.

Esme Kpanah returned recently to the United States from Liberia after visiting family. She was screened for the disease.

"Everyone is afraid of Ebola, but there are certain groups of people that don't believe there is Ebola," she said.

Ignoring the disease helps it spread, Cobb said.

"When it hits the densely populated zone, it's completely out of control and goes through the poor suburbs of the city, and then it hits some folks who take airplane travel," he said.

Cobb describes a nightmare scenario of the disease being transferred via airlines: "One of the people in Cairo goes to London and there's a lot of air traffic from London over to New York, and we're off to the races."

The virus' Incubation period is up to three weeks. More than 900 have died so far in 2014. The World Health Organization is considering an international declaration of a health emergency.

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