Dead or alive: Animal sampling during Ebola hemorrhagic fever outbreaks in humans

Sarah H. Olson, Patricia Reed, Kenneth N. Cameron, Benard J. Ssebide, Christine K Johnson, Stephen S. Morse, William B. Karesh, Jonna A Mazet, Damien O. Joly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


There are currently no widely accepted animal surveillance guidelines for human Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF) outbreak investigations to identify potential sources of Ebolavirus (EBOV) spillover into humans and other animals. Animal field surveillance during and following an outbreak has several purposes, from helping identify the specific animal source of a human case to guiding control activities by describing the spatial and temporal distribution of wild circulating EBOV, informing public health efforts, and contributing to broader EHF research questions. Since 1976, researchers have sampled over 10,000 individual vertebrates from areas associated with human EHF outbreaks and tested for EBOV or antibodies. Using field surveillance data associated with EHF outbreaks, this review provides guidance on animal sampling for resource-limited outbreak situations, target species, and in some cases which diagnostics should be prioritized to rapidly assess the presence of EBOV in animal reservoirs. In brief, EBOV detection was 32.7% (18/55) for carcasses (animals found dead) and 0.2% (13/5309) for live captured animals. Our review indicates that for the purposes of identifying potential sources of transmission from animals to humans and isolating suspected virus in an animal in outbreak situations, (1) surveillance of free-ranging non-human primate mortality and morbidity should be a priority, (2) any wildlife morbidity or mortality events should be investigated and may hold the most promise for locating virus or viral genome sequences, (3) surveillance of some bat species is worthwhile to isolate and detect evidence of exposure, and (4) morbidity, mortality, and serology studies of domestic animals should prioritize dogs and pigs and include testing for virus and previous exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9134
JournalEmerging Health Threats Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2012


  • Disease outbreaks
  • Ebolavirus
  • Ecology
  • Epidemiology
  • Vertebrates
  • Veterinarians

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Epidemiology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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