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physician-scientist who recently returned from Central Africa, where I
was involved in seroepidemiologic studies aimed at determining patterns
of exposure to Ebola hemorrhagic fever in and around Makokou,
Ogooue-Ivindo province, northeastern Gabon, I am writing to request your
assistance in the interpretation of the following data.
Ebola virus has been identified as the causative agent of at least seven
large human and six significant primate outbreaks since its discovery in
1976. Four of the human and all of the primate outbreaks have occurred
since 1989, and an additional human infection was associated with an
outbreak among chimpanzees in Cote d'Ivoire in 1994. These outbreaks
have generated a great deal of anecdotal and potentially useful data
about Ebola virus but the actual reservoir of the virus has not yet been
identified and practically nothing is known about the virus' ecology.
The identification of the viral reservoir and the elucidation of natural
patterns of wild viral transmission would permit public health
authorities in the nations of Central and West Africa to educate
populations at risk and thereby minimize the risk of further human
epidemics. Scientists, physicians, and epidemiologists from the CDC,
WHO, the Institute Pasteur, the National Institute for Virology, and
many other institutions have so far not been able to answer these very
important questions about Ebola virus and efforts to identify the
reservoir species have amounted to massive animal and insect collections
in areas where outbreaks have occurred. In writing this request for
information and assistance I am moving beyond the usual circles that
consider these issues; my hope is that by virtue of your expertise you
might be able to guide us in our own thinking. We are especially
interested in the identification of candidate
reservoir species or hypotheses about viral transmission which are
consistent with the known data. If possible, please explain the
reasoning behind all submitted hypotheses -- remember that what may be
plain as day to you might be completely opaque to me.
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