1887

Abstract

Viruses of the genus Ebolavirus are the causative agents of Ebola virus disease (EVD), of which there have been only 25 recorded outbreaks since the discovery of Zaire and Sudan ebolaviruses in the late 1970s. Until the west African outbreak commencing in late 2013, EVD was confined to an area of central Africa stretching from the coast of Gabon through the Congo river basin and eastward to the Great Lakes. Nevertheless, population serological studies since 1976, most of which were carried out in the first two decades after that date, have suggested a wider distribution and more frequent occurrence across tropical Africa. We review this body of work, discussing the various methods employed over the years and the degree to which they can currently be regarded as reliable. We conclude that there is adequate evidence for a wider geographical range of exposure to Ebolavirus or related filoviruses and discuss three possibilities that could account for this: (a) EVD outbreaks have been misidentified as other diseases in the past; (b) unidentified, and clinically milder, species of the genus Ebolavirus circulate over a wider range than the most pathogenic species; and (c) EVD may be subclinical with a frequency high enough that smaller outbreaks may be unidentified. We conclude that the second option is the most likely and therefore predict the future discovery of other, less virulent, members of the genus Ebolavirus.

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2016-12-16
2019-08-26
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