Monday 25 August 2014

The battle of Ebola gains a second front...the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC; formerly Zaire) [UPDATE #3]

So there are three reasons for this post. 
  • It may be a little while before we get solid confirmed information from the DRC and I think maps are useful for those of us who are ignorant of where countries live! [See below for update from WHO]
  • I'm looking for a quick post so I can move the previous post's grisly pictures down the page!
  • Mike Reid (see comments below; many thanks) brought to my attention that the range of the hammer-headed bat (Hypsignathus monstrosus; [5]) overlays the current ebolavirus outbreak areas strikingly well. I lifted that range graphic and (imperfectly, in pink) overlaid it onto my map - et voila!
Data for the hammer head bat's (Hypsignathus monstrosus) range come from The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. I adapted the graphic for VDU from Wikipedia [3]
An 24-Aug report quoted the Minister for Health, Felix Kabange Numbi.[2] This latest outbreak occurs in a country that was the site of the first (known) outbreak of a virus of species Zaire ebolavirus (called Ebola virus [1] or EBOV), and which has had six other battles with Ebola virus disease (EVD).

One of the two viruses was reported to have been genotyped as a member of the species Sudan ebolavirus (SUDV) and the second was a "mixed" infection of SUDV and an EBOV.[2] A mixed natural infection of a human would be very...unheard of. Can't really say much more though, until we get this all clarified. 

A 26-Aug WHO-AFRO update noted that the index case, a woman from Ikanamongo village, died 11-Aug sometime after butchering a bush animal.[6] 24 suspected cases of haemorrhagic fever occurred between 28-Jul and 18-Aug. 

The latest updates define that the outbreak is solely due to viruses from the species Zaire ebolavirus.[7,8,9] The EBOV viral variants share 99% nucleotide identity with the Kikwit lineage of viruses from this same species (not "strain"). Put simply, this is the evidence needed to be able to state that the two concurrent EVD outbreaks (indicated in the map above as distinct events), are indeed due to genetically distinct viral variants of Zaire ebolavirus and are not related outbreaks. 

For more on naming ebolaviruses - check out my earlier post "Behind the naming of ebolaviruses".[10]

This latest outbreak was previously and relatively quickly (too quickly? Perhaps a message in there for all of us) described by the World Health Organization as being due to gastroenteritis with haemorrhaging...

...but subsequently, we learn today that...

The outbreaks share at least one common potential animal vector range. This is one of three bat species often pointed to as a possible natural host for ebolaviruses.

Since this is not the first time concurrent outbreaks of ebolaviruses have occurred, I was wondering about seasonal factors and whether they attract or affect bats. This new information adds another piece of the puzzle.


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