KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo – Here is a recap of the worst Ebola epidemics since the deadly virus appeared in Africa nearly 40 years ago. There have been more than 20 outbreaks since then.
The Ebola virus was first identified as it spread simultaneously across two regions along the border between Sudan and what was then Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The worst outbreak killed 280 people in DRC, out of 318 known cases in that country. In Sudan, 151 people died out of a total of 284 identified cases.
The DRC was hit again by the virus, in this case by the type known as Ebola Zaire, which infected 315 people, killing 254 of them.
The epidemic was centered in the western Kikwit region.
A doctor testified that a nurse contracted the virus simply by closing the eyes of someone who had just died.
Uganda was affected for the first time as the Ebola Sudan strain ravaged two parts of the country, mainly the northern city of Gulu, but also the Masindi district and the southwestern town of Mbarara.
From September 2000 until February 2001, the fever killed 224 people of the 425 who were infected.
In Gabon, the Ebola Zaire strain spread between October 2001 and May 2002 in the northeastern province of Ogooue-Ivindo, killing 53 victims among the 65 identified cases.
It was the 4th time this sparsely populated equatorial region was affected, and the virus also killed 44 people in neighboring Republic of Congo.
Previous Ebola epidemics in Gabon, one in 1994 and two in 1996, left around 100 people dead.
The Ebola Zaire strain struck the Republic of Congo again between January and April, killing 128 people of the 143 who were infected, for a mortality rate of 90%.
The virus was particularly virulent in the western Cuvette-Ouest region, near the border with Gabon among those who handled the carcasses of forest gorillas and chimpanzees that had perished from the virus.
In October 2003, another outbreak of the same species killed 29 more people.
Once again, it was the Ebola Zaire species that killed 187 people in DRC among a total 264 identified cases. The hemorrhagic fever struck mainly between April and October in the central Kasai occidental region.
A year later, and again in 2012, the virus hit DRC, killing 73 people.
Ebola was identified for the first time in west Africa, first in Guinea, then in neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone, before it was reported in Nigeria. (READ: TIMELINE: Ebola, a ruthless killer.)
The epidemic has killed 1,427 people out of more than 2,600 known cases of infection, according to the United Nations World Health Organization.
The DRC also faced its tth outbreak in August, said by the health minister to be separate from the west African epidemic. – Rappler.com