Social Determinants of a Potential Spillover of Bat-Borne Viruses to Humans in Ghana

  •  Elaine Lawson    
  •  Jesse S. Ayivor    
  •  Fidelia Ohemeng    
  •  Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu    


Bats are well-recognized reservoirs of a number of zoonotic viruses including henipavirus. The straw-coloured fruit bat (Eidolon helvum) and the Gambian epauletted fruit bat (Epomophorus gambianus) can in found in many parts of Ghana, raising concerns about the possibility of a spillover of henipavirus from bats to humans. However the context-specific socio-economic factors that may increase points of contact between bats and humans have still not been adequately identified. Using a number of participatory methods, this in-depth investigation sought to understand the behavioural and socio-economic factors that could facilitate henipavirus spillover to humans in Ghana. Direct exposure included people coming into contact with fresh bat meat through eating, hunting and processing bat meat. Indirect exposure included sitting, selling under bat roosts as well as exposure to bat faeces through contaminated water. Gender was most strongly associated with exposure, compared to age and education. Perceptions of disease risk from bats were generally low among respondents. The study highlights the complexities of sustainably managing a potential henipavirus spillover into humans in Ghana. It recommends the establishment of a multidisciplinary team made up of ecologists, social scientists, legal, veterinary and public health experts to manage such a spillover. The paper also recommends continuous education to encourage behavioural changes in people and to develop sustainable and relevant zoonoses prevention practices especially among identified groups at risk.

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