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Genetic analyses have provided important insights into Ebola virus spread during the recent West African outbreak, but their implications for specific intervention scenarios remain unclear. Here, we address this issue using a collection of phylodynamic approaches. We show that long-distance dispersal events were not crucial for epidemic expansion and that preventing viral lineage movement to any given administrative area would, in most cases, have had little impact. However, major urban areas were critical in attracting and disseminating the virus: preventing viral lineage movement to all three capitals simultaneously would have contained epidemic size to one-third. We also show that announcements of border closures were followed by a significant but transient effect on international virus dispersal. By quantifying the hypothetical impact of different intervention strategies, as well as the impact of barriers on dispersal frequency, our study illustrates how phylodynamic analyses can help to address specific epidemiological and outbreak control questions.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Commun

Publication Date





Africa, Western, Disease Outbreaks, Ebolavirus, Genome, Viral, Geography, Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola, Humans, Phylogeny, Time Factors