Research had already pointed towards a link between deforestation and outbreaks, but new research, published in Scientific Reports, showed that there was a significant correlation between the timings of the outbreaks and deforestation. The researchers say that studying this could help predict when and where outbreaks could occur.
“Statistically, we found a very strong link between forest loss two years before an outbreak occurring,” said John Emmanuel Fa, a senior associate at the Centre for International Forestry Research. “So, there is two-year lag between trees being cut down and Ebola taking hold in that location.”
The study tracked outbreaks of Ebola in the Congo basin, comparing them to forest loss in the same area. The establishment of a time frame for infection means that early-warning systems can be set up, says Fa. He added: “Through the use of satellite imaging, we have been able to closely monitor forest cover throughout the Congo basin and west Africa in order to pinpoint areas vulnerable to future outbreaks.”