WHO: Rise in Ebola Outbreaks in Africa Linked to Climate Change

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“For the Ebola virus, we know that the bats and other animals are hosts of this particular virus,”


World health officials
are linking a significant rise in African Ebola outbreaks in this century to
climate change.

Uganda’s September 20
Ebola outbreak is just the latest in a growing number of eruptions of this
deadly hemorrhagic disease in Africa. Since 2000, the World Health Organization
has reported 32 outbreaks of Ebola, 19 in the last decade compared to 13 in the
preceding one.

Ebola is one of a range
of zoonotic diseases — infections originating in animals and jumping to humans.
A WHO analysis finds Ebola and other viral hemorrhagic fevers constitute nearly
70% of these outbreaks. The remaining 30% include dengue fever, anthrax,
plague, and monkeypox.

WHO Africa incident
manager for the Ebola outbreak in Uganda, Patrick Otim, says the number of
zoonotic diseases occurring in the region in the last decade has increased by
more than 63%.

“There have been a
couple of researchers that have shown a possible link between the climatic
changes that we are seeing and the increase in zoonotic diseases, and for this
particular case for Ebola, for instance,” he said.

Otim said diseases are
caused by several factors. Ebola, he said, is strongly influenced by the human
factor. As populations increase and people encroach on wildlife habitats,
interaction with animals increases. This, he said, increases the spread of
disease to humans.

Otim said temperature
and climatic changes also spur migration and movement of some Ebola virus

“For the Ebola virus,
we know that the bats and other animals are hosts of this particular virus,” he
said. So, when they move from areas where, for instance, there is drought or
whether areas that are no longer conducive for them and they move to favorable
areas, they may move into an area where the human population is inhabiting and
therefore the interaction between the humans increases.”

WHO says Ebola now has
spread to seven districts in Uganda beyond the original epicenter in the
Mubende district. The latest reports put the number of cases at 131, including
48 deaths.

The current Ebola
outbreak in Uganda has been triggered by the so-called Sudan strain for which
there is no vaccine. WHO said several promising candidate vaccines soon will
undergo clinical trials to evaluate their potential against Ebola.


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