Exaggerated Disease Warnings

There is no documentation that Ebola, SARS, MERS, Hendra, or COVID-19 have ever been transmitted from bats to humans, though bats are often presented as the source of human infection. Such diseases are also often mentioned as though they are widespread, without admitting that they (excluding COVID-19, of course) are rare or limited to specific geographic areas. Nevertheless, bats still have one of our planet’s finest records of living safely with humans.

Please use these resources and citations to share the truth about bats as safe and valuable neighbors.

(Last updated December 2020)

Merlin’s op-ed, “A Viral Witch Hunt,” published in Issues in Science and Technology on March 27, 2020 illustrates how misguided focus on bats as speculated sources of scary diseases threatens an invaluable resource and leads to misdirection of public health resources. Continue reading

Merlin’s Opinion Letter, “Fear of Bats and its Consequences,” was published in the Journal of Bat Research and Conservation. This is a thoroughly documented report on how exaggerated disease claims against bats have harmed bats and efforts to conserve them over the past 47 years—something all who care about bats should know.

Read Merlin’s article, Give Bats a Break, in the Spring 2017 edition of Issues in Science and Technology. This report is based on Merlin’s review of thousands of scientific papers and popular media stories. Continue reading

Wrong approaches in defense of bats can be even worse than not defending them at all. As experience has shown, despite good intentions, nothing can threaten bats more than fear. Continue reading

Millions of tourists have watched free-tailed bat emergences from the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas over the past 35 years without anyone ever having been harmed. Signs warn visitors not to handle the bats. Continue reading

Merlin has been sharing the truth about Ebola for years through responses to exaggerated claims blaming bats for Ebola outbreaks. Continuing to claim bats as the source is likely to reverse conservation progress essential to ecosystem health and delay successful Ebola prevention. Understanding the true source is essential. Continue reading

July 2017 saw a virtual explosion of premature speculation presented as though it was proven fact, much of it traceable to a single article titled, “Bats are global reservoir for deadly coronaviruses,” that appeared in the June 14, 2017 issue of Nature. Many media stories now claim bats to be the primary source of so-called “emerging infectious diseases” like Ebola, though most of these speculations remain unproven. Continue reading

When it comes to defending bats against falsely positive stories, no one is working harder or accomplishing more. Continue reading