I’m sure we’re all familiar with Ebola, the acute virus is thought to originate from fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family as they are the natural Ebola virus hosts, although once a person is infected it is extremely transmissible. This lead to the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak, which caused havoc globally and lead to over 11,000 deaths. The outbreak lasted around a year, although was officially declared terminated in June 2016.

Many people are apprehensive, believing animals in the first world are susceptible to contracting the disease, and likely to transmit it to themselves. A group of students at Columbia university tested rats inhabiting Manhattan for germs in which can cause disease. Not only did they find masses of disease causing germs, but they also discovered bacteria in which was completely foreign to science. These were thought to be gained in the sewers and contaminated areas. This lead us to the question of; can rats contract and spread the disease of Ebola, in a similar fashion to the plague?

The simplistic answer is hypothetically yes, although the chances are extremely rare. Dr Charles, from the university of California, San Francisco school of medicine helped identify and investigate the likely hood of this occurring. The first factor he explained was that “The virus would need to find a suitable host”. Rats potentially could be this host as they’re often found in unsanitary areas, although a test on lab mice show they aren’t well adapted to survive a virus, they are more likely to die from the disease than spread it. These studies prove accurate although don’t stand for wild rats, found in Manhattan and other areas.

The second factor for them to contract Ebola is that they would have to be in contact with the virus. This appears plausible as according to The CDC contaminated waste from Ebola patients currently goes into the public sewage system, before it eventually reaches the treatment plant. However, the waste disposed from Ebola patients at the hospital of Emory university of Atlanta was disinfected with bleach prior its disposal, further minimising this risk.

In conclusion, for rats to become a reservoir for Ebola they need to be open to infection initially, and successfully carry the disease without dying. They would also need to be in reach with infected waste containing the live virus in the sewers, assuming the waste wasn’t already treated with bleach. So although it is hypothetically correct, the chances are so low that it’s nothing to be weary of.

By Riana Krishna