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Nobody knows how far Ebola will spread

West Africa's Ebola epidemic, which has already claimed about 2,000 victims, could get a lot worse before it gets better— particularly in the (apparently unlikely) event that the virus evolves to spread from person to person through the air. It could end up in major cities in Europe or the US, in India or China.

Will it? The truth is that nobody knows.

Back in 1976, the first outbreak of Ebola in what was then Zaire caused only 318 illnesses and 280 deaths. Since then, a lot has changed to make the virus more mobile.

West Africa is much more densely populated, and those people move around more. A global air network links Lagos, Monrovia and other affected cities to other major population centers in Africa and around the world. The latest outbreak, which originated in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, has now spread to Senegal and Nigeria.

The World Health Organisation...

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