It is known that a disease such as Ebola has always been a huge problem for scientists, doctors and governments because of its unpredictable nature.
Furthermore, over 60% percent of these infectious diseases are zoonotic. Even if Ebola is well-known, there are still many other of which people are unaware, such as Lassa fever and Rift Valley fever. These diseases affect every year many individuals and are predicted to spread in the following years.
Nevertheless, a UCL team of scientists have developed a model that is able of predicting outbreaks of Ebola, Rift Valley fever, Lassa fever and other zoonotic diseases based on several factors, including land use, population growth, and climate changes.
According to Professor Kate Jones, lead author from UCL Genetics, with the help of this model, scientists hope to inform and warn people to prepare themselves for the worst case scenario of a disease outbreak. Prevention is the key to staying healthy. Therefore, if people knew what to expect, they would be better prepared to tackle a possible epidemic.
Thanks to this model, experts will be able to calculate every possible side-effect of the decisions made by national and international governments, such as the process of converting grasslands to agricultural lands. Plus, it can also account for any possible change on many diseases in response to the environmental changes.
For instance, Lassa fever is usually encountered in West Africa. The virus can be transmitted from rats to humans. The symptoms of the Lassa fever are similar to Ebola, as it causes a hemorrhagic fever that can lead to death.
Worse, this disease is dangerous because it has few symptoms and it is hard to detect. Plus, it is usually mistaken for malaria, meaning that many people sometimes receive the wrong diagnose.
The model works by pairing the changes in the distribution of the host based on environmental changes and the method through which the disease spreads from animals to humans. Therefore, researchers can establish the risk percentage of humans getting in contact with the disease-carrying animals.
The parts of West Africa considered to be at high risk are Guinea and Senegal, as well as Central Nigeria, Ghana and the coastline of Cote D’Ivoire. Plus, the animal responsible for carrying the disease is the sub-species of the multimammate rat, known as Mastomys natalensis.
Image Source:Global Biodefense