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PLoS One. 2007 Jan 31;2(1):e176.

Ecological niche and geographic distribution of human monkeypox in Africa.

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  • 1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Poxvirus Program, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America.


Monkeypox virus, a zoonotic member of the genus Orthopoxviridae, can cause a severe, smallpox-like illness in humans. Monkeypox virus is thought to be endemic to forested areas of western and Central Africa. Considerably more is known about human monkeypox disease occurrence than about natural sylvatic cycles of this virus in non-human animal hosts. We use human monkeypox case data from Africa for 1970-2003 in an ecological niche modeling framework to construct predictive models of the ecological requirements and geographic distribution of monkeypox virus across West and Central Africa. Tests of internal predictive ability using different subsets of input data show the model to be highly robust and suggest that the distinct phylogenetic lineages of monkeypox in West Africa and Central Africa occupy similar ecological niches. High mean annual precipitation and low elevations were shown to be highly correlated with human monkeypox disease occurrence. The synthetic picture of the potential geographic distribution of human monkeypox in Africa resulting from this study should support ongoing epidemiologic and ecological studies, as well as help to guide public health intervention strategies to areas at highest risk for human monkeypox.

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