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consumption of animal flesh in the origin and spread of epidemics
Posted by: Panchito ()
Date: September 14, 2014 07:41PM



The recent Ebola outbreak has now claimed more than a thousand lives in four countries. Scientists are scrambling to find a viable pharmaceutical cure, while medical personnel and government officials try to cope with the strain put on existing health-care systems. Ethical dilemmas have arisen over who should receive potentially life-saving drugs and when. These are certainly important issues for a global conversation. However, an important ethical issue which has thus far been under-discussed is the role of the consumption of animal flesh in the origin and spread of epidemics.

While some attention has been given to the African practice of hunting and eating fruit bats, a likely animal reservoir of the Ebola virus, the link between eating meat and the plethora of infectious disease outbreaks is seldom articulated. Bush meat in general carries a high risk of disease - for example, flesh from hunted chimpanzees is the probable source of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which has now claimed the lives of more than 36 million people. But the risk does not end with bush meat - it is indisputable that live animal markets in China were the catalyst for SARS, H5N1 and numerous other viral outbreaks over the past decade. Fuel for the influenza epidemics is provided by the high density of birds and pigs in eastern China, providing a mixing bowl for genetic variants capable of infecting humans. But we don't have to look far from our own backyards to find examples of that, too: the H1N1 influenza epidemic of 2009, in which up to half a million people died worldwide, traces its probable origin and early spread to North American pig farms. Pigs are also a likely source of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. So are cows, who also carry disease-causing E. coli bacteria, which cost the US government more than $250 million annually. That's small change, though, compared to the $1.3 billion spent by the US government on Campylobacter jejuni bacterial infections originating in chickens.

And consider that these are just the infectious agents that have made the successful jump to humans. Many more pathogens circulate in animals intended for food that cause billions in economic loss for farmers and represent a simmering underlying threat to human health, including mad cow disease, foot and mouth disease virus, the pool of influenza variants around the world and probably a vast number of other dangerous diseases that remain unknown - for now.

The case against meat consumption grows stronger every day, with new research showing its detrimental effects on our long-term health, the environment and the usefulness of our antibiotics supply. To this list, we must be willing to add that eating meat - whether bush meat from jungles, the corpses of birds bought at markets, ground pork purchased off the shelves of the local mega-store or any other kind - is directly responsible for major outbreaks of infectious diseases. So far, we've been lucky in preventing a truly global pandemic - but not the loss of millions of human lives and expenditures of billions of dollars. We know that animals are the source of the majority of new and re-emerging diseases in humans. Surely it's time for us to acknowledge this and to determine what we need to do about it before we are overwhelmed by an outbreak that we truly cannot control.

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Re: consumption of animal flesh in the origin and spread of epidemics
Posted by: Panchito ()
Date: January 01, 2015 06:38PM

Ebola outbreak: 1st case with 2-year-old boy linked to bats



Scientists have come up with the likely possibility of how Ebola's first victim — Patient Zero — contracted the deadly disease that has ravaged parts of West Africa.

Patient Zero, who has since been identified as two-year-old Guinean Emile Ouamouno, may have been infected while hunting or playing with bats inside a hollow tree near his home in a small village named Meliandou, according to researchers. He died in December 2013.

Research published in the EMBO Molecular Medicine journal finds that the single transmission, from bat to boy, was then spread human to human.

Since the epidemic began, scientists have not been able to determine the cause, though many believe fruits bats were a "natural reservoir" of the virus, according to the World Health Organization.

The EMBO study has expanded the range of possible Ebola sources to include insectivorous bats — the species that were in and around the hollow tree where Ouamouno played. Insectivorous bats have previously been discussed as potential Ebola sources, and the study says "experimental data have shown that this species can survive experimental infection?."

Researchers are also leaning more toward insectivorous bats because they found no large colony of fruit bats near Meliandou.

The scientists arrived at this assumption during a four-week field mission in southeastern Guinea in April, just after the virus broke out. They examined human exposure to bats and other bushmeat, surveyed local wildlife in the forests surrounding the area, and captured and sampled bats in the Meliandou area as well as in neighbouring forests.
Study rules out bushmeat

Over eight days, scientists carefully observed the boy's village and spoke with villagers to determine how the boy contracted Ebola. Meliandou is a small village of 31 houses, surrounded by farmland and few larger trees.

Villagers said children used to play frequently in a hollow tree about 50 metres from the boy's home, which housed a colony of insectivorous bats. In the report, villagers said the tree burned down on March 24, and when it caught fire, a "rain of bats" started. A large number of them were collected to eat.

The researchers didn't find evidence of Ebola transmission from the consumption of the bats, but villagers said they disposed of them after a ban on bushmeat was announced the following day.

The study determined Ouamouno's interaction with bats is the likely cause of transmission by ruling out other possibilities, namely that the virus was spread by the consumption of bushmeat.

"Would contaminated fresh bushmeat have been brought to the village by a hunter, the [hunter] would likely be among the first cases, as observed in several outbreaks in the Congo Basin," reads the study.

"However, only children and women presented symptoms or died in the beginning of the current epidemic, and the sole survivor of the index case's family is the father, who had not lived in household for several years and was reported never to have been a hunter."

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Re: consumption of animal flesh in the origin and spread of epidemics
Posted by: suncloud ()
Date: January 06, 2015 08:07AM

Thanks for bringing up this important point Panchito.

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Re: consumption of animal flesh in the origin and spread of epidemics
Posted by: HH ()
Date: January 06, 2015 03:59PM

West African immigrants to America are known for illegally smuggling bushmeat into the US. They consider it a luxury item.

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Re: consumption of animal flesh in the origin and spread of epidemics
Posted by: arugula ()
Date: January 07, 2015 05:06AM

Also there was that drummer used goat skin from Guinea in West Africa to make a drum. He got Anthrax.

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