A review of the role of food and the food system in the transmission and spread of Ebolavirus

The current outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) centered in West Africa is the largest in history, with nearly ten times more individuals contracting the disease than all previous outbreaks combined. The details of human-to-human and zoonotic ebolavirus transmission have justifiably received the largest share of research attention, and much information exists on these topics. However, although food processing—in the form of slaughtering and preparing wildlife for consumption (referred to as bushmeat)—has been implicated in EVD outbreaks, the full role of food in EVD spread is poorly understood and has been little studied. A literature search was undertaken to assess the current state of knowledge regarding how food can or may transmit ebolaviruses and how the food system contributes to EVD outbreak and spread. The literature reveals surprising preliminary evidence that food and the food system may be more implicated in ebolavirus transmission than expected and that further research is urgently needed.

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