Zoonotic Disease Risk and the Bushmeat Trade: Assessing Awareness Among Hunters and Traders in Sierra Leone
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The bushmeat industry has been a topic of increasing importance among both conservationists and public health officials for its influence on zoonotic disease transmission and animal conservation. While the association between infectious diseases and the bushmeat trade is well established in the research community, risk perception among bushmeat hunters and traders has not been well characterized. I conducted surveys of 123 bushmeat hunters and traders in rural Sierra Leone to investigate hunting practices and awareness of zoonotic disease risk associated with the bushmeat trade. Twenty-four percent of bushmeat hunters and traders reported knowledge of disease transmission from animals to humans. Formal education did not significantly affect awareness of zoonotic disease transmission. Individuals who engaged exclusively in preparation and trading of bushmeat were more likely to accidentally cut themselves compared to those who primarily engaged in bushmeat hunting (P < 0.001). In addition, women involved in the bushmeat trade were at greater risk of exposing themselves to potential zoonotic pathogens through accidental self-cutting compared to men (P < 0.01). This study collected preliminary information on risk perception among bushmeat hunters that could guide the creation of a future public health-based education program to minimize zoonotic disease transmission risk among vulnerable communities.
Keywordszoonosis bushmeat public health
I would like to thank my mentor, Dr. Amy Schreier, for all of her support and guidance throughout this project. I would also like to extend my gratitude to the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Specifically, I would like to thank Mr. Bala Amarasekaran and Ms. Anita McKenna for providing the necessary support in Sierra Leone. Without the help, expertise, and hard work of my team members Papanie Bai-Sesay, Yirah Koroma, and Ibrahim Sesay, this research would not have been possible. To them, I am forever grateful. I also owe a great deal of thanks to Dr. Terry Brncic and Dr. Simona Papa. Their kindness, advice, and support were immeasurable. I would also like to thank Dr. Norman Keul and the Kathryn Wasserman Davis Foundation for granting me the Davis Projects for Peace Prize to fund this project. Finally, I would like to thank Lisa Robinson Bailey and the Angier B. Duke Scholarship program for providing additional financial support.
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