Responding to uncertainty: Bats and the construction of disease risk in Ghana

Working Paper
  • Published 12/02/15
  • ISBN: 978-1-78118-220-8

STEPS Working Paper 80
Zoonotic disease has gained international attention since the identification of avian and swine influenza, with academic focus on the modelling of disease emergence, and policy centring on disciplinary approaches of analysis. Recent scholarship has recognised that the conditions which encourage zoonotic diseases are both ecological and socio-political. The challenge lies in the deeply complex causality and high uncertainty in identifying causal links between human, wildlife and livestock diseases.

There is a disjuncture between existing academic knowledge on zoonoses and the role that uncertainty plays in anticipating and preventing future outbreaks of as yet unidentified diseases, and the way that policy makers tend to frame such evidence. This paper examines Ghana policy makers’ diverse perspectives on uncertainty related to newly emerging zoonotic diseases through the specific example of fruit bats, showing why it is so difficult to develop appropriate policy for emerging zoonotic disease. These animals have significant potential for zoonotic transmission, as evidenced in the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. This research predated this outbreak and provides a prescient account of framings of risk, uncertainty and zoonotic disease potential prior to this regional crisis.