By Editorial Board
WASHINGTON POST: When Ebola began to spread in West Africa in December 2013, it was invisible. A 2-year-old who had been playing near a bat-filled tree in southeastern Guinea died, apparently the first victim, but it took months for health workers to detect and report the spread of a disease with a high mortality.
Soon it raged across Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, sickening 28,000 people and killing 11,000. Scientists have now tracked the pathways of the virus in once-unimaginable detail, providing important lessons for preventing another outbreak. This is a terrific example of science at work for society, and it shows why this weekend’s March for Science is relevant.
The study of how Ebola spread was carried out with the collaboration of 93 scientists from 53 institutions in 16 countries and published in Nature under lead author Gytis Dudas of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. The team marshaled 1,610 whole genomes of the virus to discover what factors were significant in its spread.
They found that only 3.6 percent of the cases spread geographically, indicating that if the mobility of relatively few people had been disrupted, the epidemic might have been braked. Also, they discovered that the virus traveled more often over short distances; faraway cities did not catch fire, as some had feared might happen. They also found that border closures helped: Once the gates shut, virus movement occurred mostly within countries rather than between them.
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Source: The Washington Post