Saturday, January 31, 2009


Have u ever gone to a party and came back otherwise? Food poisoning? Here is why.

Yesterday in honouring an invitation to witness a traditional marriage ceremony betwixt my peers, we travelled the short distance to Batoke, a lovely village in Limbe cropping on the southern fringe of the gulf of Guinea. The event was commonplace with the usual quirks of trend expositions in vestures and stilettos, music, wine, lurking gentlemen, anticipating ladies, celibates, non-celibates, exhilarating nuptial families and patronizing in laws, and most intriguing the banquet.

As would be expected, a fine mixture of Cameroonian and European cuisine, though largely dominated by local staples such as, Koki, a bean pudding whisked in palm oil and steamed in plantain leaves until it gets tender, Ekwang, a porridge meal consisting mainly of cocoyam dough wrapped in cocoyam leaves, gingerly dressed up with smoked fish and beef and stewed in palm oil, and many more I would have considered ok if it weren’t topical for another subject in the stead.

However, there was one meal which called for a lot of solicitation from the crowd. It was the popular gravy meal locally called “Bush Meat.” It consists of a gravy soup and the beef of the now protected animals such as gorilla; (generally, the animals which are very much close to the bush than to settlements), which include apes, other primates, ungulates, rodents and so on. Mindful of the rarity of these animals in the legal market due to conservation protectionism, and their tasty flesh, the meal is exceptionally compelling.

The pieces of Bushmeat are smoked for several days, using certain types of wood. After the smoking they are air-dried for another several days. Although similar to other air-dried procedures, the meat is fermented in addition to the air-drying. High-grade bushmeat is sometimes even covered with a thin layer of mold, giving it distinct aroma.

As I behold the scores of people harvesting from the cauldrons, I couldn’t help but regret the cause and effect chain of animal transmissible diseases.

Our lower brethren have from time immemorial been, our cribs and cogs. Man invented the air planes based on the paradigms of the extraterrestrial animals such as birds, discovered medicinal plants from observing the choices of animals and birds, athletics from monkeys. Man has also used the services of camels and horses for transportation, bulls for ploughing, and even the sheep for vestures. Principally, their fleshes have always provided us with pleasure and good health.

However, this good health has also very often been shortcome by the very flesh of these animals. Bushmeat such as Apes harbour pathogens that can in theory affect humans. Ebola for instance have also been found in chimps and gorillas and bonobos, and have spread to humans by handling the meat and consumption of such great apes. African squirrels (Heliosciurus, Funisciurus) have been implicated as reservoirs of the monkeypox virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and their use as bushmeat may be an important means of transmission to humans. Birds recently caused many deaths globally due to the Bird Flu disease.

Also, scores of disease we contract today are being caused by these lower animals. Animal diseases that are naturally communicable to humans are called zoonotic diseases or zoonoses. As long as we are in the immediate environment of animals or untreated animal products, we are at risk of contracting a disease or infection that can be traced to them.

A wide range of health problems may be linked to animals. Some common sources of disease causing organisms or infection include:

eating contaminated milk or meat,

eating foods such as fruits, vegetables and other produce particularly mushrooms that are contaminated with animal waste,

making direct contact with a living animal that causes you an injury or transfers a bacterium, virus, fungus or parasite to you,

handling contaminated materials such as soil and water that have come in contact with animals or animal waste. Even if you work with or walk on soil with unprotected hands or feet or have young children who like playing with soil, it's possible to contact bacteria or parasitic worms from animal waste that could result in disease.

So when I returned home that night though a little inebriated thanks to the cherished Matango drink, a local aphrodisiac brewed from the palm plant, I proceeded to research on the world wide web and discovered the following intriguing facts about zoonostic diseases.

From an article written by Lockie Gary (link) on how we could contract zoonoses, the author said “Openings of the nose, ears and mouth serve as easy points of entry for viruses, bacteria and parasites. This means that air, water, food, soil and direct contact with an animal play a part in assisting disease causing organisms or infectious agents to enter your body. Cuts and scrapes to the skin may provide entry points as well. Your eyes are also vulnerable.

Diseased cattle and swine have had to be destroyed because eating the meat, even when cooked, would have meant the disease causing agent would infect white blood cells in humans. Sheep, mink, mule deer and elk have also been implicated in the transfer of a disease causing agent. In the United States for example it is possible to contract a form of the modern day plague directly or indirectly from squirrels and prairie dogs.”

The Wikipedia on zoonoses (link) gave a partial list of agents that can carry infectious organisms. They include:

Assassin bugs,


Bank voles,



















Rabbits and hares, Raccoons,







These can be listed according to:



helminths (cestodes and trematodes),





The Wikipedia also listed (though the list is inexhaustible) the various kinds of zoonoses. Some include:


Avian Influenza (Bird Flu), Babesiosis,

Barmah Forest virus, Bartonellosis,


Bolivian hemorrhagic fever,


Borrelia (Lyme disease and others),

Borna virus infection,

Bovine tuberculosis,


Chagas disease,

Chlamydophila psittaci,



Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), from bovine spongiform , ncephalopathy (BSE) or "mad cow disease",

Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever,


Cutaneous larva migrans Dengue fever,



Escherichia coli O157:H7,

Eastern equine encephalitis virus,

Western equine encephalitis virus,

Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus,


Hendra virus,


Korean hemorrhagic fever,

Kyasanur forest disease,

Lábrea fever,

Lassa fever,




Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus,


Marburg fever,

Mediterranean spotted fever,

Monkey B,

Nipah fever,

Ocular larva migrans,

Omsk hemorrhagic fever,

Ornithosis (psittacosis),

Orf (animal disease),

Oropouche fever,


Puumala virus,


Psittacosis, or "parrot fever",


Rift Valley fever,

Ringworms(Tinea canis),



Streptococcus suis,




Tularemia,or "rabbit fever",

Typhus of Rickettsiae,

Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever,

Visceral larva ,


West Nile virus,

Yellow fever.

Other zoonoses might be:


SARS (possibly; civet cats may spread the disease, or may catch the disease from humans.)

This list is by no means complete. The influenza virus is an interesting example: It continually recombines genes between strains found in humans, swine and avians, producing new strains with changed characteristics, and occasionally, as in 1918, killing millions worldwide.

To continue reading a historical development of Zoonostic diseases, click here.

Karls JBilz.