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PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2006 9:35 am    Post subject: Ebola-Outbreak Kills 5000 Gorillas

Max Planck Society
for the Advancement of Science
Embargoed: December 7th, 2006, 20:00
Ebola-Outbreak Kills 5000 Gorillas
Vaccination program urgently needed
Over the last decade human outbreaks of the deadly Ebola virus in Africa
have been repeatedly linked to gorilla and chimpanzee deaths in nearby
forests. Hotly debated has been whether these wild ape deaths were isolated
incidents or part of a massive die-off. New research published in the journal
Science puts this debate to rest, providing strong evidence that Ebola killed
at least 5,000 gorillas at a single site. The study also provides new hope for
controlling the devastating impact of Ebola on wild gorilla and chimpanzee
populations (Science, 8 December 2006).

Since reports of ape die-offs first circulated widely in 2003, sceptics have doubtedhow large these die-offs were and whether Ebola was even the cause. The new study, led by Magdalena Bermejo of the University of Barcelona, allays these doubts because it was conducted in a closely monitored gorilla population where genetic tests confirmedEbola as the cause of death. Bermejo and colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and Uppsala University first showed that 93% (221 of 238) individually known gorillas at
the Lossi Sanctuary in northwest Congo were killed by Ebola during outbreaks in 2002 and 2003. They then
used transect surveys to show that 95% gorilla mortality rates extended over a much larger area of several
thousand square kilometres. Chimpanzees were also heavily affected, with a mortality rate of 77%.
Lossi was just one in a series of large gorilla and chimpanzee die-offs caused by Ebola over the last twelve
years. Accurate figures on exactly how many apes have died are not yet available. But given the large amount
of prime habitat affected, these Ebola outbreaks may have killed as much as 25% of the world gorilla
population. Particularly troubling has been the concentration of Ebola impact on large, remote protected
areas that were designed to be the bulwarks of ape conservation efforts. Ebola has not totally made apes
totally extinct from these areas but it has pushed once huge populations down to smaller sizes at which they
are dramatically less resilient to illegal hunting and other looming threats.
Just as troubling are recent studies showing that the Ebola infection wave is spreading rapidly towards several
of the remaining large protected areas in the region. Results from the new study suggest that protecting these
remaining ape populations from Ebola may be much more feasible than previously appreciated. At Lossi,
most gorillas appeared not to be infected directly from some reservoir host, as previously assumed. Rather,
initial spillover from a reservoir host appeared to trigger an epidemic that spread from gorilla social group
to gorilla social group. This opens the door to targeted vaccination strategies that, by breaking the chain of
transmission, could be much more efficient than in the case of outbreaks driven entirely by reservoir
spillover. The consistent spread rate of the Ebola infection wave also suggests that vaccination could be
targeted just ahead of the advancing wave.
The current lack of a vaccination program is not due to a lack of vaccine options, as several different vaccines
have now protected laboratory monkeys from Ebola and major vaccine labs are anxious to help. Rather,
"Uncertainty about whether a large Ebola control effort was necessary or even possible has paralyzed large
donors and major conservation organizations," said Peter Walsh, a co-author from Max Planck. "We are
hoping that the starkness of our results will push some public or private donor to finally commit the two or
three million dollars necessary to develop a safe and effective way of delivering Ebola vaccine to wild apes."
Walsh contends that Ebola vaccination is a cost effective method of ape conservation. "People in the
conservation community are intimidated by the up-front costs of vaccination and would prefer to instead
spend the money on anti-poaching. What they are not factoring in is the fact that one year of Ebola vaccination
could save as many apes as decades of anti-poaching. We need to do both."
Walsh also points out that Ebola has the potential to quickly destroy years of ecotourism investment. For
example, Bermejo’s gorilla habituation program at Lossi was set up in the mid-1990’s in collaboration with
the European Union’s Ecosystem Forestiere d’Afrique Centrale (ECOFAC) project to bring ecotourism
revenue to local people. Ebola not only wiped out the habituated gorillas at Lossi, it also neutralized years
of ecotourism investment in neighbouring Odzala National Park by devastating gorilla populations there.
"We are in a period where relatively modest investments in both Ebola control and anti-poaching would go
a very long way towards insuring the future of our closest relatives," said Walsh. "Let’s not blow it."
Related Links:
[1] Backgroundinformation about EBOLA and Great Apes:
[2] MPG-Presseinformation "Ebola bedroht Menschenaffen in Afrika" vom 25. Oktober 2005
Original work:
Magdalena Bermejo, José Domingo Rodríguez-Teijeiro, Germán Illera, Alex Barroso, Carles Vilà, Peter D. Walsh
Ebola Outbreak Kills 5000 Gorillas
PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2006 1:08 pm    Post subject: (Health) Hemorrhagic Fever: Megadeath in Mexico

Megadeath in Mexico

Epidemics followed the Spanish arrival in the New World, but the worst killer may have been a shadowy native—a killer that could still be out there.

By Bruce Stutz

DISCOVER Vol. 27 No. 02 | February 2006 | Anthropology
Courtesy The Mexican Institute of Social Security

The Virgin of Guadalupe, shown in a 19th-century Spanish engraving, allegedly appeared during a 1531 smallpox outbreak and became the patron saint of New Spain.

When Hernando Cortés and his Spanish army of fewer than a thousand men stormed into Mexico in 1519, the native population numbered about 22 million. By the end of the century, following a series of devastating epidemics, only 2 million people remained. Even compared with the casualties of the Black Death, the mortality rate was extraordinarily high. Mexican epidemiologist Rodolfo Acuña-Soto refers to it as the time of "megadeath." The toll forever altered the culture of Mesoamerica and branded the Spanish as the worst kind of conquerors, those from foreign lands who kill with their microbes as well as their swords.

For the full article:


Questiosn to explore further this topic:

Viruses that infect animals

What is Hemorrhagic fever?

Video: "The History of Bioterrorism"

Hemorrhagic Fever Viruses as Biological Weapons

Bioterrorism agents

Immunity and Biterrorism



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