Ebola is a virus that primarily affects humans and nonhuman primates, such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees. It is a zoonotic disease, meaning it is transmitted between animals and humans. The natural host of the Ebola virus is unknown. What might be the animal that started Ebola?
A brief history of Ebola outbreaks
Ebola was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in Sudan. There is some interesting research and speculation that Ebola might have been present in humans long before 1976, but there is no conclusive evidence that has decisively proven this.
Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a highly infectious and acutely lethal viral disease that has afflicted humans and animals primarily in equatorial Africa. Because the pathogens responsible for the virus are primarily found in Africa, outbreaks are most likely to originate there.
From 2014 through 2022, 32,311 people have contracted Ebola, of which 13,708 have died - a staggering 43% overall case fatality rate.
But where did Ebola come from, and how did it reach humans?
What animal started Ebola?
A zoonosis is an infectious disease that can spread from animals to humans. Zoonotic pathogens may be bacteria, viral or parasitic, and can spread to humans through direct contact or through food, water, or the environment. They represent a major public health problem around the world due to our close relationship with animals in agriculture, as companions, and in the natural environment. Zoonoses can also cause disruptions in the production and trade of animal products for food and other uses.
The CDC states it best: Scientists do not know where the Ebola virus comes from. But based on similar viruses, they believe it's a zoonotic disease, with nonhuman primates being the most likely source. Infected animals carrying the virus can transmit it to other animals, like apes, monkeys, duikers, and humans. Bats are also suspected to be a reservoir. Fruit bats are a delicacy in parts of Africa, and a 2013 outbreak was linked to a girl who was exposed to one of these animals.
According to a 2014 presentation by Dr. Kysten Lyke at the University of Maryland, primates are not likely to be a reservoir. However, the U.S. CDC still considers them to be a possible source of infection.
Transmission of the ebolaviruses between natural reservoirs and humans is rare, but can occur if an individual comes into contact with the carcass of an infected animal. Once contracted, the virus then spreads person-to-person, especially within families, in hospitals, or during mortuary rituals where contact among individuals becomes more likely.
How did people catch Ebola from the animal source?
Bushmeat is meat from wildlife species that are hunted for human consumption, most often referring to the meat of game in Africa.
The bushmeat trade is a major source of income and protein for many people in Africa, Latin America and Asia. However, the trade also poses a serious risk to public health, as bushmeat can be a source of infectious diseases.
The Ebola virus is one of the most serious diseases linked to bushmeat consumption. The virus can be deadly to humans, and there have been several outbreaks in Africa in recent years. The most deadly outbreak, in 2014, began in Guinea and spread to several other countries.
While the bushmeat trade poses a serious risk to public health, it is also an important source of income and nutrition for many people. It is important to find ways to regulate the trade so that it is safe for both consumers and wildlife.