On Tuesday, scientists warned that West Africa is the most exposed to the bat viruses. According to them, the transmission of the viruses from bats to humans could lead to new diseases and major deadly outbreaks. Other regions that have highe risk of getting the bat virus are South East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
When the diseases of the animals can be transmitted to humans, the so called zoonotic events take place. Bats are known for carrying more than one zoonotic virus. Most of the modern diseases are zoonoses. These include influenza, the Ebola virus and rabies. Most of the human diseases first originated in animals, but only the ones that are transmitted from the contact with humans are called zoonoses. Zoonoses can be transmitted through saliva or biting, or through air.
Bats can carry rabies, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Ebola and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Experts are worried that they might develop other epidemics that are still unknown in the future.
The British and Scottish scientists focused on discovering the areas with the highest risks of zoonotic events. They used factors such as the number of bat viruses, hunting bats and the increase of the population. The UCL team discovered that the region with the highest risk of human and bat contact was Sub-Saharan Africa. They also revealed that the bats that carried the most viruses were situated in South America.
The researchers mostly used information published from 1900 to 2013 and their combined results showed that West Africa is the most exposed to the bat viruses, followed closely by South East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. According to a Scottish researcher, the risks are increasing mostly because the population continues to increase every day and they are expanding their homes in forests and other wild areas. Liam Brierley said that another problem is that people who live in these wild regions have the tendency to hunt bats for their meat. People who live in basements, attics, sheds or barns are also exposed to the zoonoses.
By touching the raw meat or by coming in contact with the fluids of the bats, people can contact the disease the bat had carried. The virus can be transmitted from the bats by coming in contact with their urine, feces and saliva. After being transmitted to humans, symptoms of the disease can vary from a few hours to even a few years. The major problem is that people are often unaware that they have been bitten or that they came in contact with something that could endanger their health.
The study which revealed that West Africa is the most exposed to the bat viruses was published in The American Naturalist journal.
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