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Durham University

Research & business

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Publication details for Dr Jesse Bonwitt

Bonwitt, Jesse, Kelly, Ann H., Ansumana, Rashid, Agbla, Schadrac, Sahr, Foday, Saez, Almudena Mari, Borchert, Matthias, Kock, Richard & Fichet-Calvet, Elisabeth (2016). Rat-atouille: A Mixed Method Study to Characterize Rodent Hunting and Consumption in the Context of Lassa Fever. EcoHealth 13(2): 234-247.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Lassa fever is a zoonotic hemorrhagic illness predominant in areas across Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and southern Mali. The reservoir of Lassa virus is the multimammate mouse (Mastomys natalensis), a highly commensal species in West Africa. Primary transmission to humans occurs through direct or indirect contact with rodent body fluids such as urine, feces, saliva, or blood. Our research draws together qualitative and quantitative methods to provide a fuller and more nuanced perspective on these varied points of human–animal contact. In this article, we focus on the hunting, preparation, and consumption of rodents as possible routes of exposure in Bo, Sierra Leone. We found that the consumption of rodents, including the reservoir species, is widespread and does not neatly tally against generational or gender lines. Further, we found that the reasons for rodent consumption are multifactorial, including taste preferences, food security, and opportunistic behavior. We argue that on certain topics, such as rodent consumption, establishing trust with communities, and using qualitative research methods, is key to investigate sensitive issues and situate them in their wider context. To conclude, we recommend ways to refine sensitization campaigns to account for these socio-cultural contexts.