Yesterday, Xeni told you that the deadly virus Ebola has reemerged in Uganda. The disease has actually been infecting and killing people in the western part of the country for three weeks. We're hearing about it now, in big font, because some sources have reported that the disease has reached Kampala, the country's capital. (Other sources say only that one person infected with Ebola traveled to Kampala, and that there have been no reports of anyone catching the disease in that city.)
The Kampala link is somewhat concerning. Previous Ebola outbreaks have centered on rural areas, villages, and mid-sized towns. With the exception of a handful of highly monitored cases that centered around research labs in the U.S. and Europe, and the case of a medical worker who accidentally brought the virus to Johannesburg, South Africa in 1996, Ebola has not previously found its way into any major global hubs of human life. Kampala may not be on your radar with New York, Tokyo, or London, but air travel and money give it strong ties to the rest of the world and population density gives it a much larger number of potential victims within striking distance.
But here is a key thing about Ebola—it's scary as hell, but it burns itself out pretty fast and it's not that easy to spread. On average, Ebola kills a majority of the people it infects, and it kills them quickly. The time between infection and onset of symptoms ranges from two to 21 days. That means the virus only has so long to find new hosts. Meanwhile, Ebola isn't airborne. To catch it, you have to have contact with infected blood or bodily fluids. Historically, it's been a disease of people and their medical workers, or people and their immediate families. In rural communities, Ebola can burn through the small, isolated population and find itself with nowhere to go in the span of a couple months.