See also:
» 19.01.2010 - Killer malaria found in gorillas
» 07.10.2008 - Spread of AIDS linked to colonialism
» 07.08.2008 - Fears of downward gorilla populations erased
» 08.12.2006 - Ebola outbreak killed 5000 gorillas
» 17.11.2006 - Scientists predict next Ebola outbreak
» 16.01.2004 - Ebola also causes epidemics in ape populations
» 23.12.2003 - European satellite to assist solving the Ebola enigma
» 17.11.2003 - Eleven Congolese Ebola deaths officially confirmed

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Congo Brazzaville | Gabon
Science - Education | Health | Environment - Nature

Scientists link Ebola to animal carcasses

Ebola virus:
«Great apes represent a serious health risk.»

afrol News, 23 February
- According to a new scientific study, all recent Ebola virus outbreaks in humans in forests between Gabon and Congo Brazzaville were the result of handling infected wild animal carcasses. The hunt and consumption of great apes was in particular connected to these outbreaks.

afrol News, 23 February - According to a new scientific study, all recent Ebola virus outbreaks in humans in forests between Gabon and Congo Brazzaville were the result of handling infected wild animal carcasses. The hunt and consumption of great apes was in particular connected to these outbreaks.

The webzine 'ScienceDaily' refers to a new study by the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and its regional partners in Gabon and Congo. Appearing in the February edition of the journal 'Emerging Infectious Diseases', the study found that many animal carcasses tested for Ebola between 2001 and 2003 produced positive results, and found direct links between the deadly disease in animal populations and humans.

According to veterinarian William Karesh of the WCS, who also co-authored the study, "this research proves that hunting and consumption of great apes represent a serious health risk for people in Central Africa, and a risk that can be avoided." WCS operates various zoos in the US and is advocating for an end to the bushmeat trade in Africa out of environmentalist reasons.

- What we need now is improved awareness of this risk in communities where bushmeat is still a source of sustenance and continued monitoring of wildlife in the region, said Dr Karesh. "We have identified a 'win-win' opportunity by using this information to both protect endangered apes from illegal hunting and to protect humans from deadly outbreaks," he added.

The paper claims to provide "definitive proof for the assumption that Ebola moves from wildlife populations to humans through the consumption or handling of carcasses or bushmeat."

Specifically, the researchers found that Ebola infections in wild animals such as gorillas, chimpanzees and occasionally duikers - a diminutive antelope species - move across the human-wildlife divide through hunters taking either sick animals or carcasses for meat. Hunters can then spread the disease to families and hospital workers, creating the conditions for an epidemic in the process.

Between August 2001 and June 2003, researchers noted that wildlife outbreaks occurred prior to five human outbreaks in the same relative locations. During this same period, 98 animal carcasses were discovered in the region straddling north-east Gabon and the north-western part of Congo Brazzaville.

Of these carcasses, 21 gorilla, chimp and duiker carcasses were tested for the Ebola virus, with 14 samples being found positive. In 11 cases, instances of human infection were directly linked to gorilla, chimpanzee and duiker carcasses, according to the WCS study.

- To prevent future outbreaks from becoming health crises, health officials and wildlife researchers must continue to work together in monitoring the region's wildlife for signs of Ebola, the environmentalist scientists urged.

Shortly after August 2001, participating agencies founded the Animal Mortality Monitoring Network in collaboration with Gabonese and Congolese Ministries of Forestry and Environment to predict and prevent outbreaks. On two occasions since then, the network alerted health authorities about potential human outbreaks weeks before they occurred.

- The signs of potential outbreaks often occur in remote areas, where roads are barely usable and communications limited, added Dr Karesh. "Conservation organisations such as WCS are therefore critical to the early detection of the conditions that can lead to deadly health emergencies."

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