23 Africa states risk Ebola transmission by animals

Though the West African Ebola outbreak that began in 2013 is now under control, 23 countries in Africa remain environmentally suitable for animal-to-human transmission of the Ebola virus, says a study.

Only seven of these countries have experienced cases of Ebola, leaving the remaining 16 countries potentially unaware of regions of suitability, and therefore underprepared for future outbreaks, the findings, published in the journal eLife, showed.

Only a handful of countries saw 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. 

The study was led by researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The current study provides an update on a study published in 2014 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 likely capable of transmitting Ebola, as well as new reports of the virus.

The map shows that Cameroon, Gabon, Republic of Congo and mainland Equatorial Guinea are now predicted to be more environmentally suitable than in the previous analysis. 

The regions of Central Africa (particularly Gabon and the Republic of Congo) identified as being most environmentally suitable for zoonotic Ebola virus disease transmission in the previous analysis remain so in this analysis. 

The revised number of predicted at-risk countries is 23. 

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