As the death toll tops 1,000 people, certain questions about the Ebola virus outbreak begin to arise: What exactly is Ebola? How is it contracted? How does it compare to past outbreaks? What can be done to prevent further spread of the deadly virus?

Close tabs are being kept on the status of the recent Ebola outbreak in Central and West Africa and it seems there is a new article posted on the subject every couple of hours. As of today, the death toll has risen to roughly 1,000 people while the number of infected cases nears 2,000. The outbreak originated in Guinea, but has spread to numerous neighboring countries including Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Liberia. In the past week, the World Health Organization has declared that it would be ethical to offer unproven Ebola vaccines and medicines as the outbreak has become so severe. To read more on the most recent updates and what countries like Canada are doing to help, click here.

So what exactly is the Ebola virus and how does one contract it? The short answer is that it is a zoonotic disease, meaning it is spread from animal to human through close contact. The host is thought to be the fruit bat, a very common species in Central and West Africa. The long answer can be read and examined by clicking on one or both of the following links:

WHO: Ebola virus disease

The Ebola Outbreak: ‘A Dress Rehearsal For The Next Big One’

Finally, how does this outbreak compare to outbreaks in the past? It is easy to see that the 2014 Ebola outbreak has the highest death toll of any outbreak in recorded history, however it is not the most fatal. Why so? To read more on this comparison as well as others, click here.