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UN Map of West Africa via wikipedia http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8a/Un-guinea.png

Doctors without Borders have worked tirelessly and at great personal risk to try to contain the Ebola virus. The arrival of Ebola in the USA has been predicted as imminent for decades, in the context of surface mining, deforestation, and international air transport, as we reminded everyone almost a year ago: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/yeti-yeetso-and-yakuza-monsters-deforestation-and-selling-our-birthright/ It’s not just doctors who are without borders, but animals, people, and mining companies. The miracle is that it has taken so long, as it is classic that people flee outbreak zones from fear, inadvertently spreading the disease.

From the WHO:
Ground zero in Guinea: the outbreak smoulders – undetected – for more than 3 months
A retrospective on the first cases of the outbreak
Ebola at 6 months

On 26 December 2013, a 2-year-old boy in the remote Guinean village of Meliandou fell ill with a mysterious illness characterized by fever, black stools, and vomiting. He died 2 days later. Retrospective case-finding by WHO would later identify that child as West Africa’s first case of Ebola virus disease. The circumstances surrounding his illness were ominous.

The forest background

During the country’s long years of civil unrest, natural resources were exploited by mining and timber companies. The ecology in the densely-forested area changed. Fruit bats, which are thought by most scientists to be the natural reservoir of the virus, moved closer to human settlements.

Hunters, who depend on bushmeat for their food security and survival, almost certainly slaughtered infected wild animals – most likely monkeys, forest antelope, or squirrels. (WHO investigations into the origins of previous Ebola outbreaks have often found dead primates and other wild animals in jungles and forests). The wives of the hunters prepared the meat for family meals.

Though no one knew it at the time, the Ebola virus had found a new home in a highly vulnerable population.

Meliandou is located in what is today designated as the outbreak’s “hot zone”: a triangle-shaped forested area where the borders of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone converge. All three countries were deeply impoverished, and their health infrastructures severely damaged, during years of civil unrest.

Poverty is pervasive. Large numbers of people do not have steady, salaried employment. Their quest to find work contributes to fluid population movements across extremely porous borders – a dream situation for a highly contagious virus.

Following the young boy’s death, the mysterious disease continued to smoulder undetected, causing several chains of deadly transmission.” (Emphasis our own) Read the rest of the article here: http://who.int/csr/disease/ebola/ebola-6-months/guinea/en/ Chart of the initial Ebola person to person spread is here: http://who.int/csr/disease/ebola/ebola-6-months/guinea-chart-big.png?ua=1 Most recent WHO update: http://www.afro.who.int/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_download&gid=9458&Itemid=2593

It needs to be made clear that the problem is NOT the bats. It is deforestation for surface mining, which will only be exacerbated by ongoing surface mining and planned new surface mining. These include major iron mines and possibly uranium mines.

The bats help to control mosquitos which are responsible for many deaths in Africa, by carrying diseases including Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosquito-borne_disease They are also not totally certain that bats are the carrier of Ebola.
Guam endangered Fruit Bat USFW
Endangered US Fruit bat (Guam): http://www.fws.gov/refuge/guam/wildlife_and_habitat/mariana_fruit_bat.html

According to Bats without Borders:
Bats provide vital ecosystem services that are important for people and ecosystem health. Bats can eat huge quantities of insects, included on their menu are mosquitoes and some important agricultural insect pests (such as stink bugs). In addition to being major insect predators, bats are also important seed disperses and pollinators.” (Emphasis our own.) Read more here: http://www.batswithoutborders.org

As animals, including bats, flee loss of habitat due to deforestation-surface mining they apparently concentrate more in areas where there are still trees or other appropriate habitat. Anyone who has lived near a deforested area knows about this. However, bats are able to fly great distances, it seems, so that surface mining, or other deforestation, can indirectly impact areas far away. Richter, et. al., 2008, found that one bat travelled 2518 km (1564 miles) in 149 days. (Richter, H. V. and Cumming, G. S. (2008), “First application of satellite telemetry to track African straw-coloured fruit bat migration“. Journal of Zoology, 275: 172–176)

The problem is well-explained here: “How saving West African forests might have prevented the Ebola epidemic“, JA Ginsburg, Friday 3 October 2014 18.26 BST http://www.theguardian.com/vital-signs/2014/oct/03/ebola-epidemic-bats-deforestation-west-africa-guinea-sierra-leone-liberia

Demography of straw-colored fruit bats in Ghana
David T. S. Hayman, Rachel McCrea, Olivier Restif, Richard Suu-Ire, Anthony R. Fooks, James L. N. Wood, Andrew A. Cunningham, and J. Marcus Rowcliffe, J Mammal. 2012 October ; 93(5): 1393–1404.
Excerpt: “Thomas (1983) reported small, transitory E. helvum colonies in Mali, over 1,500 km north of Ivory Coast, during the wet season when Ivory Coast colonies had declined from approximately 500,000 to a few hundred individuals. The greatest cumulative distance recorded for a single E. helvum tracked by satellite telemetry was 2,518 km in 149 days (Richter and Cumming 2008). Therefore, the Accra colony may not only be part of a large Ghanaian population, but may be connected to other populations in West and Central Africa. In our study we noted that the Tanoboase colony was very large when the Accra colony was still large (approximately 1 million bats). Thus, it is possible that a large number of absent bats in Accra in 2009 and 2010 moved to this colony, which according to local reports has been increasing in size over the last decade. Future studies should aim to identify destinations of bats emigrating from Ghana using telemetry techniques. Unraveling the full scale of bat migratory movements would help us understand drivers of these migrations and enable us to monitor dynamics of bats and their infections at the metapopulation level.

Our CMR analysis provides evidence that males are less likely to migrate than females (Table 3; Fig. 4), posing interesting questions regarding social structure and costs of migration on reproductive success. Social structure may also be an important factor in the context of infection dynamics because of its effect on contact rates.

Our radiotelemetry data suggest that bats do not always return to the same roost daily. Also, we detected 2 animals (first captured in Accra) in 2 other colonies (Kumasi and Tanoboase) approximately 200 and 300 km from Accra, respectively. Eidolon helvum has been monitored by satellite telemetry flying greater distances than these in a single night (Richter and Cumming 2008). One individual adult male tagged in Accra that had migrated was subsequently detected the next dry season in Kumasi, Accra, and then Tanoboase colonies. This demonstrates that at least some individuals use multiple roosts…
Entire article available for free here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3605799/

Bats Without Borders: Long-Distance Movements and Implications for Disease Risk Management” Andrew C. Breed,Hume E. Field,Craig S. Smith,1Joanne Edmonston,and Joanne Meers, EcoHealth 7, 204–212, 2010 DOI: 10.1007/s10393-010-0332-z The entire article is available for free here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20645122 It explains how bats fly from Australia to New Guinea! This was the inspiration for the title. Only later did we find the charity.

As we warned last year:
The Next Super-germ Plague Lies Peacefully in the Forest; Deforestation associated with Mining Will Set it Loose: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/yeti-yeetso-and-yakuza-monsters-deforestation-and-selling-our-birthright/