Bats and Nipah

Transmission of viruses from bats to humans is exceedingly rare. For anyone who simply doesn’t handle them or consume unpasteurized palm juice or unwashed fruits the odds of contracting any disease from a bat are extremely remote. The benefits of sharing our neighborhoods with bats far outweigh any risks. Even in the case of Nipah, the odds of being infected by another human dwarf those of getting it from a bat!

There is still much we don’t know about the potential origins of viral infections in humans. Few animals beyond bats have even been investigated. Nipah can be harbored in a wide variety of animals, including many that are domestic. And there remains no proof that bats aren’t simply one of many potential hosts, possibly not even a primary source. Just being able to survive a disease does not make an animal an important source of transmission to humans. In Austin, Texas, where I live, we share the city with millions of bats who routinely come into close contact with humans. And despite proof that some harbor rabies, no one in the more than 100-year history of our city has contracted this or any other disease from a bat. We just don’t handle them.

A disappointing number of authors and publishers are continuing to spread false narratives that bats are exceptionally high-risk sources of deadly viruses.

The following article titled, “Can bats spread Nipah virus? Experts allay concerns” responds to exaggerated Nipah virus speculation based on Merlin’s response to the author’s request for assistance.

Indian flying fox (Pteropus giganteus)

We are happy to share this response to the Nipah headlines that have been frightening people of bats worldwide. Author Haritha John reached out to MTBC for help and has done an excellent job of presenting the facts Merlin was able to supply based on a review of current scientific knowledge.

There is no credible evidence that bats harbor more viruses. This was confirmed by Mollentze and Streiker’s April 28, 2020, comprehensive analysis, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Their paper titled, “Viral zoonotic risk is homogeneous among taxonomic orders of mammalian and avian reservoir hosts” concluded that bats are no more likely than other animals to host disease.

They have simply been far more extensively searched. You will find additional relevant information in my article titled A Viral Witch HuntBoth articles contain links to peer-reviewed papers documenting my facts.

Also, I have documented how exaggerated claims of bat disease have harmed both bats and human health. This paper documents the major role of bats in protecting rice crops from insect pests in Thailand. And this one documents similar values in the Mediterranean. You will find examples in my resource titled Essential Bat Values.