Bushmeat, a highly valued commodity in Africa, may expose Americans to an HIV-like virus, among other deadly and infectious diseases, according to the Grio.com.
According to scientists and wildlife advocates, the increasing demand for bushmeat in various African communities across the U.S. is putting public health in America at risk. The meat is often smuggled to the U.S. and sold door-to-door.
“There is no doubt that thousands of pounds of bushmeat is coming into the country every month,” Dr. Heather Eves, former director of the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force, told the Grio.com.
Bushmeat is the meat of wild animals such as chimpanzees, elephants, and bats, and is highly coveted in some African communities. It is eaten on special occasions and is believed to have positive medicinal qualities. Bushmeat also serves as a source of income for those who harvest it.
“It’s a link to their culture,” Eves told the Grio.com. “That’s a very important piece. It can’t be replaced by any other types of food here.”
But scientists say that the meat can contain diseases that can spread from animal to human. According to the Centers for Disease Control, humans can contact numerous diseases from primates including monkey pox, the Ebola virus, yellow fever and tuberculosis.
Additionally, the CDC and Wildlife Conservation Society released preliminary test results that revealed that primate bushmeat found in New York City contained two strains of the Simian foamy virus. This virus is known to be related to HIV, and some believe it may have been responsible for the virus’ early cases, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“The movement and mixing of humans, wildlife, and domestic animals as part of the illegal global wildlife trade encourages transmission of disease and emergence of novel pathogens,” Dr. William Karesh of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Global Health Program said in a statement.
Still, the bushmeat trade is a thriving business in many U.S. cities including Detroit, Atlanta, Washington D.C., New York and New Jersey.
The Senate is expected to introduce the Global Conservation Act next month, which would devise an international strategy to battle natural resource depletion across the globe. This strategy will also cover the illegal bushmeat trade.