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Understanding Ebola virus and other zoonotic transmission risks through human-bat contacts: Exploratory study on knowledge, attitudes and practices in Southern Cameroon

Baudel H., De Nys H., Mpoudi-Ngole E., Peeters M., Desclaux A.. 2019. Zoonoses and Public Health, 66 (3) : p. 288-295.

DOI: 10.1111/zph.12563

The ecology of Ebola virus (EBV) remains largely unknown, but the previous detection of viral RNA and anti-EBV antibodies in African bats suggests that they might play a role in the EBV reservoir. Moreover, African bats also carry other potentially zoonotic agents such as Henipah-like viruses, coronaviruses and lyssaviruses. Today only little information is available on interactions between humans and bats. The objective of our exploratory study was to describe the extent and modes of contacts between humans and bats in southern Cameroon, considered as an area at risk for future EBV outbreaks. The survey was conducted in 11 villages of four distinct rural areas in southern Cameroon. A total of 135 respondents were interviewed using semi-structured questionnaires, between February and May 2017. The study showed that direct contacts between bats and humans are relatively common. Bat bushmeat appeared to be an occasional meat resource; 40% of respondents consume bats with a median annual consumption of three, and 28% of respondents hunt them. About 22% of the respondents reported children catching bats. Indirect contact also appeared to be common; 55% of hunters use caves as shelters and 67% of interviewees eat fruits previously chewed by bats. Bat consumption varied significantly between regions (from 0% to 87%) and between pygmies and bantus in the extreme south-east of Cameroon. The study revealed considerable diversity in practices among interviewees, most of them being subsistence cultivators and relying on self-hunted bushmeat. Geographical diversity of contacts and perceptions regarding bats in Cameroon emphasizes the need to adjust zoonotic pathogen surveillance and education campaigns to the specificities of the communities and their context of interaction with wildlife.

Mots-clés : zoonose; transmission des maladies; ebolavirus; maladie à virus Ébola; Épidémiologie; chiroptera; enquête pathologique; coronavirinae; lyssavirus; cameroun; henipavirus

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