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Ebola-outbreak kills 5000 gorillas

n previously appreciated. At Lossi, most gorillas appeared not to be infected directly from some reservoir host, as previously assumed. Rather, initial spillover from a reservoir host appeared to trigger an epidemic that spread from gorilla social group to gorilla social group. This opens the door to targeted vaccination strategies that, by breaking the chain of transmission, could be much more efficient than in the case of outbreaks driven entirely by reservoir spillover. The consistent spread rate of the Ebola infection wave also suggests that vaccination could be targeted just ahead of the advancing wave.

The current lack of a vaccination program is not due to a lack of vaccine options, as several different vaccines have now protected laboratory monkeys from Ebola and major vaccine labs are anxious to help. Rather, "Uncertainty about whether a large Ebola control effort was necessary or even possible has paralyzed large donors and major conservation organizations," said Peter Walsh, a co-author from Max Planck. "We are hoping that the starkness of our results will push some public or private donor to finally commit the two or three million dollars necessary to develop a safe and effective way of delivering Ebola vaccine to wild apes."

Walsh contends that Ebola vaccination is a cost effective method of ape conservation. "People in the conservation community are intimidated by the up-front costs of vaccination and would prefer to instead spend the money on anti-poaching. What they are not factoring in is the fact that one year of Ebola vaccination could save as many apes as decades of anti-poaching. We need to do both."

Walsh also points out that Ebola has the potential to quickly destroy years of ecotourism investment. For example, Bermejo’s gorilla habituation program at Lossi was set up in the mid-1990’s in collaboration with the European Union’s Ecosystem Forestiere d’Afrique Centrale (ECOFAC) project to bring ecotourism revenue to
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Source:Max-Planck-Gesellschaft


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