Via allAfrica.com, a news release from the FAO: FAO Warns of Fruit Bat Risk in West African Ebola Epidemic. Excerpt:
Increased efforts are needed to improve awareness among rural communities in West Africa about the risks of contracting the Ebola virus from eating certain wildlife species including fruit bats, FAO warned today.
Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are struggling to contain the world's deadliest recorded outbreak of the virus, which is transmitted by direct contact with the blood and body fluids of infected people as well as infected animals.
The West African epidemic is thought to have started when the virus crossed over from infected wildlife into the human population and subsequently began spreading between people.
Curbing human-to-human transmission is the most important focus for governments and international health agencies. However, FAO is working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise awareness of the transmission risks from wildlife among rural communities that hunt for bushmeat - or meat obtained from the forests - to supplement their diets and income. These communities risk future spill-over from species that can carry the virus, including fruit bats, some primates, and duikers.
"We are not suggesting that people stop hunting altogether, which isn't realistic," said FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth. "But communities need clear advice on the need not to touch dead animals or to sell or eat the meat of any animal that they find already dead. They should also avoid hunting animals that are sick or behaving strangely, as this is another red flag."
Fruit bats - usually eaten dried or in a spicy soup - are thought to be the most likely reservoir species for the virus, which they can carry without developing clinical signs of the disease, and should be avoided altogether, according to FAO.
"The virus is killed when meat is cooked at a high temperature or heavily smoked, but anyone who handles, skins or butchers an infected wild animal is at risk of contracting the virus," Lubroth said.
Myths and mistrust thwarting efforts
While several governments in the region have attempted to outlaw the sale and consumption of bushmeat, bans have proved impossible to enforce and have met with suspicion from rural communities.
"There is a lot of mistrust, to the extent that people are hiding patients rather than getting medical help, and it's very difficult to control the disease in the midst of many myths and rumours," said Katinka de Balogh, FAO veterinary public health officer and Ebola focal point.
De Balogh said there were growing concerns about the effect the outbreak may have on food security in some parts of the region as some farmers are too afraid to work in their fields, while some markets have also closed down.