A new study reveals that Nigeria and 22 other countries remain at risk of animal-to-human transmission of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
The study entitled, “Updates to the zoonotic niche map of Ebola virus disease,” was conducted by researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), University of Washington in Seattle, United States (U.S.).
Only Nigeria and six of the 22 countries have experienced cases of Ebola, leaving the remaining 15 potentially unaware of areas where the virus can thrive and, therefore, under prepared for future outbreaks.
The researchers in their newest study incorporates more data from a wider range of bat species. Like many recent pandemic viruses, Ebola is passed between animals and humans. It originates from human contact with animals like bats (and sometimes primates), but can also pass through body fluids between people, and potentially through sexual contact months after symptoms resolve.
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Therefore, to stay ahead of the epidemic, it is vital not only to measure human outbreaks, but to measure infections among animals (i.e. “zoonotic niches”).
The current findings, provide an update on a 2014 study that created a zoonotic niche map used to define areas of environmental suitability for Ebola, in response to the outbreak. This map identified regions where the virus could be transmitted from animals to humans.
The updated map incorporates more species of bats capable of transmitting Ebola, as well as new reports on the virus.
Despite ministry of health and international organizations’ response to the West African Ebola outbreak, the risk of future widespread outbreaks remains high. Through ongoing surveillance and prevention research, opportunities remain to stem the disease’s spread.
Researchers have also found that areas stricken by extreme poverty are more likely to be associated with high rates of Ebola transmission and spread.
The Head of the Ebola Containment Team and Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Dr. Jide Idris, corroborated the findings of the study, saying Nigeria is still vulnerable not just to EVD but to any other emerging infectious disease.
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Only a few countries experienced cases of Ebola before 2013, until Guinea unexpectedly reported an outbreak that led to more than 28,000 cases and 11,000 deaths across West Africa.