Ebola outbreak worsens as scientists search for source of virus

As the two American missionaries who contracted Ebola while in Liberia recover at Emory Hospital in Atlanta, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports the outbreak is worse than previously thought--and controlling the virus is especially difficult because researchers don't know the source, according to Fox News.

The Ebola outbreak--declared an international emergency earlier this month--now totals 2,127 cases and 1,145 deaths in four countries, and is the worst outbreak ever recorded, according to the WHO. Researchers confirmed 152 new cases last week.

"Staff at the outbreak sites see evidence that the numbers of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak," the WHO announced. "WHO is coordinating a massive scaling up of the international response, marshalling support from individual countries, disease control agencies, agencies within the United Nations system, and others."

Infectious disease experts told Fox News it is difficult to stop new outbreaks until they can find the source of the virus.

"First and foremost get the outbreak under control," Jonathan Towner, a scientist who works for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in the article. "Once that piece is resolved, then go back and find what the source is."

Although scientists' suspect the virus may come from certain bats, the WHO suggests other animals, including gorillas, monkeys and porcupines may play a role. The virus is spread via contact with blood or bodily fluids of a patient suspected of having Ebola. Symptoms include fever of 101.5 degrees or higher, muscle and body aches, headaches, vomiting and diarrhea and, eventually, hemorrhaging of blood. 

A New Mexico woman is currently undergoing testing for Ebola, although state officials think it's unlikely she has the virus, Time reports. The 30-year-old teacher was in Sierre Leone and returned to the United States with fever, muscle aches, headache and a sore throat. The state expects preliminary test results later this week.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that Doctors Without Borders opened its largest-ever Ebola treatment center near Liberia's capital to handle the surge of patients. The unit will initially hold 120 patients but can accommodate up to 400.

"I think it will be full very fast, and the situation will continue to get worse," Lindis Hurum, a project coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in Monrovia, said in the article. "In general it is a very difficult and alarming situation. I can't stress it enough."

More people are coming to the center for testing and isolation due to increased public awareness messages in the media.

As the outbreak expands, WHO ethicists approved the use of experimental therapies to treat sick patients, according to Forbes.

To learn more:
- here's the Fox News article
- read the WHO statement
- check out the Time article
- here's the New York Times story
- read the Forbes article