Addressing Zaire Ebola virus (EBV) outbreaks

Addressing Zaire Ebola virus (EBV) outbreaks
Feb 2015

Following the ongoing outbreaks of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in several African countries reported since March 2014, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) prepared a rapid qualitative exposure and release assessment in order to evaluate the role of meat from wild animals and related activities linked to Zaire Ebola virus (EBOV) in human populations.

The likelihood for human exposure to EBOV through close contact with wild species, hunting, handling and consumption of meat from different wild species as well as the likelihood of introduction and onward transmission of EBOV in non-infected countries through the consumption and trade of wild animal meat are assessed in this document.

The potential exposure and spread of EBOV

The outputs from this rapid qualitative exposure and release assessment are highlighted below:

1. The likelihood of spillover to one human from:

  • one individual fruit bat, such as Hypsignathus spp., Epomops spp., Mops spp., Micropterus spp., Rousettus spp. and Myonycteris spp., through handling and consumption can be considered as very low,
  • one individual from other wild mammalian species, such as non-human primates like gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) or non-primate species, like black-backed duikers (Cephalophus dorsalis), can be considered as very low.

Even if such spillovers can be viewed as rare events, their consequences are nonetheless disastrous. Human to-human transmission of the virus can lead to important epidemics that are difficult to control, especially when people are engaging in risky practices (funeral or health care centres).

2. The likelihood of spillover to one human from domestic mammalian species, such as:

  • dogs can be considered very low to low,
  • domestic pigs as very low.

3. The likelihood of EBOV being transmitted to humans through trade, handling or consumption of meat from wild animals and leading to a new human outbreak in non-affected countries is considered very low.