As the Ebola outbreak continues to spread and grow, what can we learn from looking at the history of the disease's spread?

Images courtesy of John Nelson / UXBlog.

John Nelson over at UXBlog put together this chart showing how Ebola outbreaks have happened since the first recognized one, almost 30 years ago. As the graphic shows, we see outbreaks of the disease coming up fairly consistently since 1976, when it was first identified, but this latest one has some important differences.

The first thing that stands out about the current outbreak is that it is clearly far and away the largest one we've seen. This latest outbreak, however, is notable not just in its size (which is still growing), but also in its scope, with multiple sites of infection popping up. As Nelson told io9:

One of most alarming aspects of the current outbreak is how distributed it is, spanning several countries. In looking at the CDC chronology, border hopping was rare and then only in villages near the border, or via an infected researcher travelling home. I am not an epidemiologist, I just make maps and pictures of things, that's all. And I made this graphic mostly so I could visualize the loss of people in a way that was even a little more tangible than a number. But learning more about the magnitudinal difference between this and past incidents –especially seeing the counts climbing through even the course of making the graphic- this time around is different. And the response of aid workers fighting the outbreak seems especially urgent. I included a couple links in the graphic to encourage folks to learn more about what those teams are working on and what assistance they might need.

Check out the chart below (or its full-sized version here). Nelson will also be joining us to take questions in the comments, so if you have any questions, ask away.