Based on their findings, the researchers were able to identify relationships among previously documented Ebola outbreaks in humans and wildlife in Gabon and RoC that initially seemed disparate and unrelated. They proposed that the virus first spread southwest across Gabon. It then looped back toward the northeast from sites in western or central Gabon and caused the most recent outbreaks in RoC.
"If the spread of the Ebola virus follows its current northeastward path, the next outbreak would be expected to occur in northern Republic of the Congo towards Cameroon and the Central African Republic," predicted Lahm.
However, according to the findings, the spread of Ebola also depends on climate factors. Illness and deaths among animals were most prevalent during periods of prolonged drought-like conditions in the rainforest, which indicates that severe environmental stress may facilitate disease transmission.
In the study, the researchers urge that public education is needed to decrease human contact with potentially infected wildlife by discouraging people from scavenging dead animals and by promoting safe hunting and trapping practices, especially because the results show that outbreaks in wildlife populations have been much more frequent than previously believed. They emphasize that monitoring wildlife in collaboration with rural African residents could provide information essential for protecting public health as well as comprehending the ecology of the disease.
Lahm points out that there remain many unanswered questions about Ebola including how the virus spreads within and between mammal species.
"Our study provides more pieces of the puzzle, but at the same time it is enlarging the puzzle," she noted.
Richard Barnes from the Envir
Source:University of California - San Diego