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Good Question: What Is Ebola?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There's growing concern over what has become the worst Ebola outbreak in history.

More than 1,200 people have become infected by the deadly virus in West Africa.

That includes two American aid workers.

Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, which is its real name, was first discovered in the Congo in Africa in 1976.

This outbreak is strong enough to force Liberia to close most of its borders.

Ebola has spread like a wild fire in West Africa and so far it has claimed nearly 600 lives, including one of Liberia's top doctors.

It starts out like a flu, with muscle aches and a high fever. But those are minor symptoms compared to what happens next.

"And then as the illness progresses you'll start bleeding from your nose, from your eyes, hence the hemorrhagic part of it," Dr. Rebecca Zadroga said.

Zadroga specializes in infectious diseases at Hennepin County Medical Center.

She said in many cases a victim's skin will also fall off.

While the symptoms are clear, many things about Ebola remain unclear.

"So, at this point I don't think we really, really know what the original source was," Zadroga said.

Many scientists believe the virus originated from an animal, possibly from bats. But that's not proven.

It's also not exactly known how Ebola spreads, though the Center for Disease Control says it's likely transmitted through blood and bodily fluids.

Zadroga says even after a person contracts Ebola, it's incubation period isn't exact. It can take three weeks before someone infected starts showing symptoms.

"We've had a lull for many, many years without any outbreak cases and then, all of a sudden, it showed up again. And why that's happened? I'm not sure we really, really know," Zadroga said.

And the question remains, could we see it here?

Zadroga said she's not aware of a documented Ebola case in the United States.

And the CDC said the chance of Ebola spreading to our country is low.

Regardless, up to 90 percent of the people who get this virus eventually die from it.

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