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article imageTracking bats could help halt Ebola spread

By Tim Sandle     Sep 12, 2014 in Health
Various actions are being undertaken to fight the Ebola virus that is sweeping across parts of West Africa, and resulting in a mounting death toll. As the main vector is bats, some scientists think that tracking bats is one way to combat the disease.
Mapping fruit bat habitats could be one important step to fight Ebola, drawing on the method of “geoinformatics”. The argument is that by understanding more about the causes and transmission of Ebola, measures can be put in place to slow down its spread. One of the key vectors for the transmission of the disease is fruit bats. These bats are considered to be the “natural” hosts of the virus. Transmission occurs through bat droppings and also when the bats are eaten (they are a delicacy with some people).
A research team have developed a method that medical professionals can use to visualise the geographical distribution of Ebola virus disease over time. The researchers have examined the relationship between geography and disease distribution in major epidemics of the past, and used this historical data to provide the basis for predicting the course of future epidemics and pandemics.
As an example, the Black Death, which was prevalent during the mid-14th, century, bears an uncanny resemblance to today's Ebola epidemic. Both diseases were hosted by small mammals: black rats (for the Black Death) and fruit bats (with Ebola). Another commonality is that humans that enabled the spread.
It is hoped that such “geoinformation” can provide technology options to public health crews who are tackling the crisis. This could include equipping field workers with hand-held GPS devices that feed a central database with data and findings regarding locations of bodies, possible infections and diagnosed cases personnel.
The study was carried out at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. The findings have yet to be published.
More about Bats, Ebola, Virus, Africa
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