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Africa | Congo Kinshasa

Bats are vector of Ebola - scientists

afrol News, 29 May - Scientists have discovered that bats spread the Ebola virus to humans and play a pivotal role in the disease outbreaks in many parts of Africa.

According to the new findings collected in the remote Kasai-Occidental and Kasai provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which experienced a large Ebola outbreak in 2007, revealed that fruit bats are natural reservoir of the Ebola virus.

The study also reavled DRC which was the worst hit in 2007, with a death toll above 180, and experienced a high annual migration of the fruit bat during the year. According to report, bats are an important source of protein in the area as wild animals are in short supply, stating that they are often shot and then sold covered in blood.

Ebola which is a virus transmitted by direct contact with infected blood, body fluids and tissues, causes fever, vomiting, diarrhoea and sometimes bleeding and there is still has no treatment for it found. An estimated 25-90 percent of infected people die.

The researchers believe the source of the 2007 outbreak was a man who bought bats at market. He survived, experiencing only a low fever, but his four-year-old daughter died after developing a sudden fever accompanied by vomiting.

Researchers say their study suggests infection is only transmitted after prolonged contact with an infected person, meaning it may be easier to contain an outbreak than was previously believed.

The DRC's National Biomedical Research Institute epidemiologist Jean-Jacques Muyembe said the team of researchers will continue to retrace events around outbreaks and carry out ecological studies in bats to definitely prove that these bats are the direct vectors of Ebola to humans.

Chimpanzees and gorillas are also known Ebola vectors. Bats, however, appear not to die from Ebola, suggesting they play a role in maintaining the virus in tropical forests, the study has said.

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