Researcher develops method to map bat habitats, respond to Ebola outbreak

Lars Skog, a researcher with Sweden's KTH Royal Institute of Technology, recently developed a method for visualizing the geographical distribution of a disease over time.

Skog said that the method could be applied to mapping the habitat of fruit bats, which are believed to be the host of the Ebola virus. Learning more about the bats could provide responders with a new tool in fighting the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa, ScienceDaily reports.

"A guess of mine is that the number of infected fruit bats is a determining factor for an Ebola outbreak," Skog said, according to ScienceDaily. "Are there any known factors that may have changed the ecosystem in favor of the bats? Are the bats affected by the virus too? Do fruit bats always carry the Ebola virus or is the virus fatal to them as well? If so, the percentage of infected bats will vary over the years also depending on the immunology of the species."

Skog said that geoinformation technology options, including hand-held GPS devices, are available to public health organizations to study the bats and combat the Ebola outbreak.

"Using satellite imagery, population centers can be localized," Skog said, ScienceDaily reports. "Collected disease data can also be compared and analyzed with environmental and climatologic data to support other efforts to control the spread."