Bush meat trade is major Ebola risk to Scotland

monkeeSCOTLAND’S top microbiologist has warned that the secret trade in bush meat poses the biggest risk of the deadly Ebola virus coming into the country.

Professor Hugh Pennington said people importing monkey and fruit bat meat was a more likely way for the disease to come here than via an infected airline passenger.

The emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen said much of the meat ended up being sold “under the counter” in street markets, or on the black market.

And he pointed out that the virus is believed to have originated in fruit bats.

It is estimated that 7,500 tons of illegal meat enters Britain each year, the bulk of which is bush meat, from species such as chimpanzee, monkey, porcupine, fruit bats and giraffe.

Professor Pennington, a former member of the World Food Programme Technical Advisory Group, said the danger was “very real” and added: “Bush meat is one of the primary sources of the disease’s transmission.

“Nobody really knows how much is coming in – because of its nature there aren’t any whistleblowers.

“The official seizures are only a fraction of what is brought in to our multi-cultural society.

“We know the main bush meat trade is centred on London, but it would be stretching belief if it was not being carried out in other major areas of population, including Glasgow and Edinburgh.

“If one did a risk analysis of the virus coming into Britain, transmission through bush meat would be at the top, more so than by air passengers.” (read more)