Before two recent human outbreaks of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in a region of Africa prone to epidemics of the disease, researchers identified the virus in wild-animal carcasses. Animal deaths could therefore signal a need for prevention efforts that would save people from dying, the researchers say.
For several decades, Ebola virus has caused sporadic African epidemics of fever and severe internal bleeding. There is no cure or proven vaccine, and most infected people die. Outbreaks begin when people handle infected meat or animals, particularly great apes, although it's not known how the animals contract the virus. Wild-animal meat is a major source of protein for people living in forests in t