Smuggled Bushmeat Poses U.S. Health Threat
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
NPR's Richard Knox reports health officials are worried what microbes might be in that meat.
RICHARD KNOX: Dr. Nina Marano of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Customs seized 50 packages of African bushmeat in a recent one-year period, and she's sure there's a lot more coming in. The meat they found came from a rodent called a cane rat, from monkeys and apes, from porcupines and bats.
KNOX: We have evidence of products that have been pulled out where the meat is still raw, quite raw.
KNOX: Marano presented the data at a recent scientific meeting in Vienna. She says, most of the time, bushmeat smugglers don't know they're doing something illegal.
KNOX: They're U.S. residents who go home to visit friends and family in their countries of origin. And they miss a little bit of home, and they purchase something on the street and put it in their bag and try to bring it home.
KNOX: It's hard to know how big a health risk bushmeat represents. William Kahresh, of the Wildlife Conservation Society, says it's not negligible.
M: If you look over the last 25 years, we've had 20 or 30 new emerging diseases. HIV/AIDS has turned out to be a pretty bad emerging disease. It came from the handling of bushmeat.
KNOX: Karesh estimates Central Africans consume two billion pounds every year.
M: Maybe that represents three or four or 500,000 individual animals every year being consumed in Africa, and each one is contacted by a hunter and a salesperson and a consumer. So every year there's a good chance that we could end up with some disease emerging.
KNOX: Richard Knox, NPR News.
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