Quirks & Quarks

How the Ebola virus became more contagious in humans

The 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in west Africa was unprecedented, and a genetic mutation helped it spread.
Mothers bring their sick children for treatment at Redemption Hospital, formerly an Ebola holding centre in Monrovia, Liberia. (John Moore/Getty)

The Ebola virus was virtually unheard of before 2014. But then the world started hearing about the spread of the deadly disease through the west African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. It even made its way to a Texas hospital.

Approximately 28,000 people were infected and more than 11,000 people died between 2014 and 2016.

Dr. Jonathan Ball's research suggests that a mutation to the Ebola virus made it better at spreading in humans. And, although it's difficult for researchers to prove that the mutation is responsible for the severity of the west African outbreak, he believes it's a strong possibility.

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