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An international collaboration of researchers has mapped regions most at risk of an Ebola outbreak. In their Research article -- Mapping the zoonotic niche of Ebola virus disease in Africa -- Pigott et al. used data including the current Ebola outbreak, along with previously unmapped infections in bats, primates, and other animals, to provide a clear and up-to-date map of areas at risk of seeing transmission from infected animals to humans. Previous work has shown that the first patient in an Ebola outbreak likely becomes infected through contact with an infected animal.
The group reports that the regions likely to be home to animals harbouring the disease are more widespread than previously thought, particularly in West Africa. The current study does not encompass human-to-human transmission, which influences how the disease might spread further within the human population.
“Although the disease may be found in animals across a wide area, outbreaks are still very rare; very few animals in this region have detectable infections, and it is extremely rare for humans to catch the disease from them,” said David Pigott, one of the lead authors of the study. “Gaining a better understanding of where people are coming into contact with these infected animals -- for example through hunting -- and how to protect those at risk from Ebola is crucial to preventing future outbreaks.”
Examples of media coverage recieved by this study are shown below;
- Oxford study predicts 15 more countries are at risk of Ebola exposure (The Washington Post)
- A History of Ebola in 24 Outbreaks (New York Times)
- Ebola map shows people in more African regions at risk of animal infection (Yahoo News)
- Ebola Lying in Wait (New York Times)
- Ebola Outbreak Is a ‘Serious Threat’ to Liberia’s Existence, Says Minister (TIME)
The authors were also interviewed by the BBC Worldservice team (34.45 on the clock).