Worst Ebola outbreak on record tests global response

(Reuters) - International agencies and governments are fighting to contain the world’s worst Ebola epidemic since the disease was identified in 1976. The fever, which causes external and internal bleeding, has killed at least, 2,630 people in West Africa.

Here is a timeline of the main developments in the outbreak:

March 22: Guinea confirms that a previously unidentified hemorrhagic fever, which killed over 50 people in its southeastern Forest Region, is Ebola. One study traces the suspected original source to a 2-year-old boy in the town of Gueckedou. Cases are also reported in the capital, Conakry.

March 30: Liberia reports two Ebola cases; suspected cases are reported in Sierra Leone.

April 1: Noting the spread, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) warns it is “unprecedented,” but a World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman calls it “relatively small still.”

April 4: A mob attacks an Ebola treatment center in southeastern Guinea. Healthcare workers in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia face growing hostility from fearful, suspicious local people, many of whom refuse to believe the disease exists.

May 26: WHO confirms the first Ebola deaths in Sierra Leone.

June 17: Liberia says Ebola has reached its capital, Monrovia.

June 23: With deaths above 350, making the West African outbreak the worst Ebola epidemic on record, MSF says the outbreak is “out of control” and calls for massive resources.

July 25: Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, confirms its first Ebola case, a Liberian-American man who died in the commercial hub, Lagos, after traveling from Monrovia.

July 29: Dr. Sheik Umar Khan, who was leading Sierra Leone’s fight against the epidemic, dies of the virus.

July 30: Liberia shuts schools and orders the quarantining of the worst-affected communities, using troops to enforce it.

July 31: The U.S. Peace Corps withdraws all volunteers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, citing Ebola risks.

Aug 2: An American missionary aid worker infected with Ebola in Liberia, Dr. Kent Brantly, is flown to Atlanta in the United States for treatment at Emory University Hospital.

Aug 4: The World Bank announces up to $200 million in emergency assistance for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Aug 5: A second U.S. missionary infected with Ebola, Nancy Writebol, is flown from Liberia to the Atlanta hospital.

Aug 8: WHO declares Ebola an “international public health emergency” but stops short of calling for a ban on international trade or travel.

Aug 12: WHO says death toll from the outbreak has risen above 1,000, and approves use of unproven drugs or vaccines.

A Spanish priest with Ebola dies in a Madrid hospital.

Aug 14: WHO says reports of Ebola deaths and cases from the field “vastly underestimate” the scale of the outbreak.

Aug 15: MSF compares the Ebola outbreak to “wartime,” says it will take about six months to control.

Aug 20: Liberian security forces in Monrovia fire live rounds and tear gas to disperse crowd trying to break out of Ebola quarantine. One teenager dies of gunshot wounds.

Aug 21: The two American missionary aid workers treated in Atlanta are released from hospital free of the virus. They received an experimental therapy called ZMapp.

Aug 24: Democratic Republic of Congo declares an Ebola outbreak in its northern Equateur province, apparently separate from the larger West African outbreak.

An infected British medical worker is flown home from Sierra Leone for treatment.

Aug 28: WHO puts the death toll at above 1,550, warns outbreak could infect more than 20,000 people. The U.N. health agency announces a strategic plan to fight the epidemic and says $490 million will be needed over the next six months.

Aug 29: Senegal reports its first confirmed Ebola case.

Aug 30: The World Food Program says it needs $70 million to feed 1.3 million people at risk in Ebola-quarantined areas.

Sept 2: MSF President Joanne Liu tells U.N. members the world is “losing the battle” to contain the Ebola outbreak and slams “a global coalition of inaction.”

Sept 3: Pace of epidemic accelerates; deaths top 1,900. Officials say there were close to 400 deaths in the past week.

A third U.S. missionary infected with Ebola, Dr. Rick Sacra of Boston, is flown out of Liberia for treatment at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

Sept. 5: WHO puts Ebola deaths in West Africa at more than 2,100 out of about 4,000 people thought to have been infected.

The European Union pledges 140 million euros (US$180 million) toward the anti-Ebola campaign.

Sept. 6: Scientists publish map of places most at risk of an Ebola outbreak, saying regions likely to be home to animals harboring the virus are more widespread than previously feared, particularly in West Africa.

Sept. 7: President Barack Obama says in an interview the United States needs to do more to help control Ebola to prevent it from becoming a global crisis that could threaten Americans.

Sept. 8: Britain says it will send military and humanitarian experts to Sierra Leone to set up a treatment center, while the United States says it will send a 25-bed military field hospital to Liberia to care for health workers.

A fourth Ebola patient will be flown to the United States for treatment, says Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital.

Sept. 9: WHO says the death toll jumped by almost 200 in a single day to at least 2,296 and is already likely to be higher. WHO says it has recorded 4,293 cases in five West African countries, but it did not have new figures for Liberia.

Sept. 10: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledges $50 million to support emergency efforts to contain the disease.

Sept. 11: Doctors treating Sacra at University of Nebraska Medical Center say he is showing “remarkable improvement” after receiving an infusion of plasma from U.S. Ebola survivor Brantly and an undisclosed experimental drug.

Sept. 12: WHO says new Ebola cases in West Africa are growing faster than authorities can manage them and renews call for healthcare workers from around the world to go to region.

Sept. 13: Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appeals to Obama for urgent aid in tackling Ebola, saying that without it her country will lose the fight against the disease.

Sept. 14: Johnson Sirleaf’s office says she has dismissed 10 senior officials because they failed to heed a warning to return from overseas to help the government’s fight against Ebola.

Sept. 15: Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama calls for the easing of restrictions on West African nations fighting Ebola, saying “panic” measures have led to isolation and undermined the battle against the disease.

Sept. 16: The United States promises to send 3,000 military engineers and medical personnel to West Africa to build treatment clinics and train healthcare workers to halt the spread of the disease.

A senior WHO official says Ebola has killed 2,461 people, about half of the 4,985 people infected, a doubling of the death toll in the past month.

Sept. 17: Johnson Sirleaf says she hopes Obama’s decision to send troops to West Africa to battle the epidemic will spur other countries to help.

MSF says a French nurse volunteering for the medical charity in Liberia has Ebola. It says seven of its local staff have the disease, and three of them have died.

U.S. House of Representatives approves $88 million to help fight the outbreak.

Sept. 18: The WHO updates its tally of Ebola’s toll: 2,630 dead out of 5,357 infected.

Eight bodies, including those of three journalists, are found after an attack on a team trying to educate local people in a remote region of Guinea about Ebola, the government says.

The United Nations says it will create a special mission to combat Ebola, deploying staff in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. U.N. Security Council adopts a U.S.-drafted resolution calling on countries to lift travel and border restrictions.

French President Francois Hollande says a military hospital will be deployed in the Forest Region of southeastern Guinea, where the virus was first detected in March.

Writing by Pascal Fletcher and Jonathan Oatis; Editing by Toni Reinhold