World

Ebola Fight Hinges On Getting West Africans To Avoid Bats

Health officials say fruit bats play a role in the spread of Ebola, but it's hard work getting people in affected areas to steer clear of the animals.

Ebola Fight Hinges On Getting West Africans To Avoid Bats
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It's the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, and it has doctors in western Africa fighting an unlikely foe. 

"Bats are carrying Ebola, possibly spreading the virus to other animals and then to people." (Via CNN)

That's right: Bats. Because although to Americans they're little more than pests, in western Africa they're a part of many people's diet. (Via Sean McCann / CC BY NC SA 2.0, European Commission / CC BY ND 2.0)

Which is a huge problem, according to the United Nations. A report issued by the organization in July warns that fruit bats are the "reservoir species" of the Ebola Virus.

That means the bats are unaffected by the virus but can carry it — and will pass it off to animals who are then eaten by humans. (Via K24 TV)  

The solution seems clear: Just tell people to avoid bats, and the bush animals they infect. 

But in a part of the world where witch doctors are sometimes the only trusted physicians, it's not that simple. (Via New York Magazine)  

"The Red Cross truck coming and they say, 'That's the ebola truck! The ebola truck!' and they run away from it and they go to their traditional medical doctors." (Via Fox News)

Epidemiologist Jonathan Epstein explains in The Atlantic"There's been intense mistrust of Western health care workers. ... You're battling a lot of perceptions and convictions.”

“Has the meat caused you any problems?"

“Nothing.”

“Before we were born, our great grandparents were born, they were eating meat. No Ebola in meat.” (Via Vice)

And while all of this hasn't stopped the UN and public health NGO's from trying, the head of the World Health Organization on Friday called the response "woefully inadequate". (Via Al Jazeera, United Nations, International Business Times

"The Ebola outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it. If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives." (Via World Health Organization)

So far, the prediction seems to be holding up. As of July 30th, WHO confirmed 1,440 cases — and out of those, 826 deaths.