“We found that EVD outbreaks tended to occur in areas that had experienced forest loss up to two years before,” Olivero explains.

Getting a heads up

The research team says the data could lead to the development of an early warning system, which means governments in Ebola risk regions can get a head-start on implementing interventions. This is key, because most EVD outbreaks happen in remote, rural communities where there are few resources.

“Once we know where these potential hotspots are, we can create a map showing where an outbreak is likely to occur and mobilise people and resources to monitor local communities,” says Fa.

An ounce of prevention

The new study clearly suggests that preserving forested areas must be a high priority for nations throughout the world. “Tropical rainforests are chock-a-block with species of all kinds, including pathogens, which means that for such a high diversity of animal hosts there are corresponding parasites, viruses, and so on,” notes Fa.