Resources for reporting on the Ebola virus and outbreak

by Jessica Weiss
Oct 30, 2018 in Specialized Topics

Journalists around the world are scrambling to cover the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, which is tearing its way through West Africa.

As of July 27, the World Health Organization, in partnership with the Ministries of Health in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria, had announced a cumulative total of 1,323 suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola virus disease and 729 deaths.

First discovered in 1976, Ebola is a highly infectious virus that leads to flu-like symptoms and severe internal bleeding. It is spread through close contact with the blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person. For those who contract the virus, the survival rate is very low; between 60 and 90 percent of people who develop Ebola will die from it.

For journalists on the ground covering the story, the risks run high. “You can’t really control where you are or what to do to avoid getting infected,” Spanish photographer Samuel Aranda, who was on assignment for the New York Times in Guinea last week, told TIME. “It was scary, and sad.”

Governments, even where there are few or no cases, are struggling to prevent the spread of the virus, for which there is no cure. In Nigeria, officials are searching for people who may have had contact with the country's sole victim so far, but "the bigger concern now is about preparedness for managing crises," ICFJ Knight International Journalist Fellow Cece Fadope, told IJNet.

Weak health infrastructure, a lack of professionals available to treat patients, as well as fear or mistrust of foreign health workers could heighten the spread of the disease. Because of the way Ebola is contracted, family members and health care workers at the scene are most at risk.

Whether you’re at the scene of an outbreak or reporting from afar, here are some resources to consult as the situation develops. Please share any additional resources in the comments below.

Useful background info and sources for reporting

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a number of useful resources, including a comprehensive fact sheet (available also in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish), alert and response resources, disease outbreak news and more.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also featuring comprehensive information about Ebola, as well as more frequently updated information and a map about the current outbreaks.

The UK’s Science Media Centre has an Ebola fact sheet, also available as a PDF.

Public Health England has an Ebola information page available, including a table and map of outbreaks.

The Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, the apex medical research institute in Nigeria, has a website with facts about the Ebola virus.

Social media and live updates

For up-to-the-minute news and information on Twitter, follow the hashtags #Ebola #EbolaOutbreak and #EbolaFacts.

Vox has a constantly updated StoryStream dedicated to the Ebola outbreak. You can also sign up to receive updates to the evolving StoryStream on Facebook.

The Telegraph has also launched a live feed of news related to the outbreak, including graphics, multimedia and constantly updated news.

Jessica Weiss is a freelance reporter based in Bógota.

Image courtesy of EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection under a Creative Commons license.