There were celebrations when the West African Ebola epidemic was declared "no longer an emergency" in March 2016. But while the outbreak is over, Ebola is is still out there. Pictured, a Liberian worker dismantling shelters in a treatment center in March 2015.
In order to stop Ebola in the future, scientists need to find out where exactly it is hiding and when it will be back. Pictured, a Doctors Without Borders health worker in Liberia carries a child suspected of having Ebola in October 2015.
Infected bushmeat could be the source of animal-human Ebola transmission. Pictured, a bushmeat seller at the Ajegunle-Ikorodu market in Lagos, August 2014.
Monkey and bat bushmeat has been linked to the spread of the deadly virus. Here, pangolins, bush rats and tiger cats are sold at the roadside outside Bata, Equatorial Guinea, in January 2015.
Bats are considered the most likely natural host, given that they overlap with humans geographically and can carry Ebola infection without symptoms. Pictured, virus hunters have been tracking bats inside Grootboom cave near Johannesburg.
Researchers injected live Ebola virus into over 40 species of plants and animals during a screening test in 1996, and found that bats could test positive for Ebola infection for at least 12 days. None of the bats died from the virus, and none of the other species showed such potential as hosts.
A bat's capacity to test positive for the virus without dying adds to the argument that bats are the most likely hosts. But without further evidence, we can't be sure.
If scientists can identify the long-term host species and where they live, communities and areas at risk can better prepare and reduce potential exposure to the virus.
While historically most outbreaks have followed a narrative of human--animal interaction, recent studies demonstrate Ebola's incredible ability, remain in bodily fluids of men who have survived infection, long after they have returned to health.
In order to be prepared for Ebola in the future, scientists and researchers need to discover how the virus moves through the wild and the city alike.