Rapid-response risk evaluation of Ebola spread via the food system

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IBM Journal of Research and Development, ISSN: 2151-8556, Vol: 60, Issue: 5-6, Page: 3:1-3:12

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J. G. Bergeron; O. O. Prasarnphanich; E. M. Mann; K. Everstine; A. Kircher; M. W. Farnham; S. Kennedy; K. Smith; D. A. Travis; W. B. Karesh
Computer Science
article description
The outbreak of Ebola virus disease centered in West Africa in 2013 to 2015 is the largest in recorded history, with nearly ten times more individuals infected than all previous outbreaks combined. Assessments of the risk of exporting Ebola virus via food commodities to the United States have not been performed to date. This work provides a semi-quantitative approach to determine the likelihood that a human inside the United States will become infected with the Ebola virus via contact with a contaminated food commodity originating from West Africa. Three commodities were assessed for the possibility of viable Ebola virus transfer from West Africa: cocoa beans, palm oil, and cashews. The commodities were assessed for the risk of both animal and human contamination, based on all possible contamination points from origin to shipment and entry into the United States. We found that the risk of a single human infection with Ebola virus in the United States, resulting from the normal commercial importation of a contaminated food commodity, was negligible to low. The methods used produced a flexible and efficient way to rapidly assess risk of contaminated product resulting from an emerging infectious disease outbreak.