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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014 Apr 18;63(15):334.

Assessment of potential zoonotic disease exposure and illness related to an annual bat festival--Idanre, Nigeria.


Bats provide vital ecologic services that humans benefit from, such as seed dispersal and pest control, and are a food source for some human populations. However, bats also are reservoirs for a number of high-consequence zoonoses, including paramyxoviruses, filoviruses, and lyssaviruses. The variety of viruses that bats harbor might be related to their evolutionary diversity, ability to fly large distances, long lifespans, and gregarious roosting behaviors. Every year a festival takes place in Idanre, Nigeria, in which males of all ages enter designated caves to capture bats; persons are forbidden from entering the caves outside of these festivities. Festival participants use a variety of techniques to capture bats, but protective equipment rarely is used, placing hunters at risk for bat scratches and bites. Many captured bats are prepared as food, but some are transported to markets in other parts of the country for sale as bushmeat. Bats also are presented to dignitaries in elaborate rituals. The health consequences of contact with these bats are unknown, but a number of viruses have been previously identified among Nigerian bats, including lyssaviruses, pegiviruses, and coronaviruses. Furthermore, the caves are home to Rousettus aegyptiacus bats, which are reservoirs for Marburg virus in other parts of Africa.

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