Ebola and Marburg virus diseases in Africa: increased risk of outbreaks in previously unaffected areas?

Author(s): Dr. Katendi Changula

Filoviral hemorrhagic fever (FHF) is caused by ebolaviruses and marburgviruses, which both belong to the family Filoviridae. Egyptian fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) are the most likely natural reservoir for marburgviruses and entry into caves and mines that they stay in has often been associated with outbreaks of MVD. On the other hand, the natural reservoir for ebola viruses remains elusive; however, handling of wild animal carcasses has been associated with some outbreaks of EVD. In the last two decades, there has been an increase in the incidence of FHF outbreaks in Africa, some being caused by a newly found virus and some occurring in previously unaffected areas such as Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, in which the most recent EVD outbreak occurred in 2014. Indeed, the predicted geographic distribution of filoviruses and their potential reservoirs in Africa includes many countries in which FHF has not been reported. To minimize the risk of virus dissemination in previously unaffected areas, there is a need for increased investment in health infrastructure in African countries, policies to facilitate collaboration between health authorities from different countries, implementation of outbreak control measures by relevant multi-disciplinary teams and education of the populations at risk.

 

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