Research highlight

Infectious disease: Ebola risk could increase under climate change

Nature Communications

October 16, 2019

Outbreaks of Ebola are predicted to increase under a range of potential global change scenarios, finds a modelling study published in Nature Communications this week.

Zoonotic diseases - those which arise in animals and are passed to humans - are influenced by numerous factors including: the distribution and health of the reservoir animal hosts, contact rates between humans and those hosts, and disease intervention strategies.

David Redding, Kate Jones and colleagues created a multifaceted mathematical model of Ebola virus disease (EVD) spillover taking into account all of these factors. The model accurately predicted which areas of Africa have previously experienced outbreak events. This allowed the authors to project future at-risk areas and the likelihood of outbreaks for scenarios involving changes in climate, human population growth, and changing healthcare practices.

They found that the area in which EVD outbreaks could occur increases under all climate warming scenarios, particularly in areas of West and Central Africa that have not previously experienced outbreaks. Outbreaks resulting from spillover events are 1.6 times (NOT: four times) more likely in scenarios with increased warming and slower socioeconomic development.

Prior models of EVD outbreak probability have neglected the potential effects of reservoir host ecology and climate warming. These new model-based findings could suggest locations which should be prioritized for disease surveillance to prevent future outbreaks, the authors conclude.

doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-12499-6

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