Ebola in Numbers: The virus with an unknown source

posted Aug 30 2019

On 17th July 2019, the World Health Organization declared a once unknown disease “public health emergency of international concern” – Ebola.

In addition, no drugs existed for Ebola, though there were several vaccines developed such as the rVSV-ZEBOV that is reported to be 70-100% effective amid questionable designs of the efficacy trials, according to WHO reports. What is interesting is that researchers and scientists are yet to find the exact source of this virus with close to 100% mortality rate. Researchers studying the virus state that evidence strongly implicates fruit bats as reservoir hosts for the virus, despite considerable research that found no Ebola virus in bats. Dr Jean Muyembe, the General Director of the Democratic Republic of the Congo National Institute for Biomedical Research, stated:

“…we still don’t know where Ebola comes from. For a long time we thought that bats were the reservoir, but we’ve examined thousands of samples and haven’t found it. So we must continue to search.”

Dr Jean Muyembe (2017)

The recent discovery has brought about a lot of discussion on social media (especially Twitter). The graph on the left shows the frequency of #Ebola tweets between 29th July 2019 and 27th August 2019. at the end of July, there was a buzz on twitter on #Ebola discussions, averaging at 80 unique tweets per hour on the topic. the next spike in discussion was in mid August, when the announcement of a drug treating #Ebola had been found came in. These conversations increase awareness to areas outside the DRC  (as shown on the location graphs below on the right)

Since the discovery, tweets on “ #Ebola ” have been increasing. More and more people are talking about the virus. The words “Outbreak”, “DRC”, “Congo”, “health”, “new”  and “Goma” are the most frequently mentioned words in these tweets. DRC and Congo reflect the country affected by the most recent outbreak, which narrows down to Goma (the exact area affected). Other words like “new”, “treatment”, “cases” reflect the new drugs that are being used for treatment as per the most recent discovery of the drugs.

Most frequent words related to #Ebola on twitter

A word network drawn to determine which words are linked revealed that the discussion about Ebola was centered around three major themes: the outbreak (preparedness, survivors, confirmed cases etc), health (care, public health, heal care workers etc)  and survival (improve, rates, 90% etc), as shown on the graph below. In the graph, each node represents a unique word as mentioned in the tweets. The width of the line between the words indicates the number of times the linked words are mentioned together. Words frequently mentioned together have thick lines.

Word network: Tweets using the hashtag – Ebola

As worldwide awareness grows and new drugs are being developed , how much information do you know about transmission, symptoms and preventive measures of the Ebola Virus?

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