People living in West African communities run the risk of contracting the Ebola virus if they consume species like the fruit bat, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, said Monday.
Officials must make greater efforts "to improve awareness among rural communities in West Africa about the risks of contracting the Ebola virus from eating certain wildlife species including fruit bats," the Rome-based organization said in a statement.
The FAO said that populations in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone "are struggling to contain the world's deadliest recorded outbreak of the virus."
Ebola "is transmitted by direct contact with the blood and body fluids of infected people as well as infected animals," the FAO said.
Curbing its transmission is now the chief goal for governments and international health organizatons, the FAO said.
"Fruit bats - usually eaten dried or in a spicy soup - are thought to be the most likely reservoir species for the virus, which they can carry without developing clinical signs of the disease," because of which the FAO recommends they "should be avoided altogether."
The FAO has dedicated resources and is working with governments, the offices of the World Health Organization, or WHO, and other partners in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The first human cases of the Ebola virus in West Africa are believed to have occurred in December 2013, since when more than 600 people have died of the disease, the WHO said.
Ebola has a mortality rate of up to 90 percent, the FAO said. EFE