Do Bats Carry Diseases? Are They Dangerous?
Generally, bats are harmless and are nothing to be feared. However, they can carry several diseases you should protect yourself from.
Bats can carry illnesses such as rabies and viruses related to SARS. Recent research even suggests that they may have been the original hosts of viruses like Nipah and Ebola. Overall, bats are known to carry over sixty different viruses that also affect humans. They host more diseases than even rodents.
Do Bats Carry Diseases Worse Than Rodents?
Bats and rodents alike are known to transmit various zoonotic viral pathogens, meaning they are able to infect humans. Scientists have studied the diseases among both groups.
- Rodents – host a whopping 179 viruses, only 68 of these are able to infect humans.
- Bats – harbor only 137 viruses, but 61 can affect humans.
On average, each bat species is more likely to carry a disease that can affect humans than a rodent will.
Bats are more likely to carry a zoonotic virus for a number of reasons. First and foremost is because bats live in close quarters to one another. Also, bats live longer and have greater body mass than rodents do. With only one liter per year, they can host viruses for longer periods of time.
This respiratory disease is caused by the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum, which is commonly found in bat droppings. This fungus produces potent spores that can infect humans by inhalation. Symptoms are similar to the flu, but can later affect vision, hearing, and cardiac functioning. This disease escalates quickly, leading to blood abnormalities, fever, pneumonia, and, in some severe cases, death.
This is the disease most commonly associated with bats but is actually only carried by a small percentage of bats. Bats are not likely to attack humans, but if they are rabid, this likelihood can increase slightly.
If you are bitten by a bat you should try to preserve the bat so that it can be tested for rabies.
The vaccine can be effective if administered when symptoms first start, but if symptoms start to show it is always fatal.
Should We Be Concerned?
Researchers suggest as scary as this evidence of viral transmissibility is the studies are far from done, and there is a strong possibility that bats may host even more diseases than we initially thought. There are a number of viral agents that scientists don’t have a strong grasp on yet.
While it is uncommon for humans to come into contact with infected bats, it is very likely for them to catch viruses through contact with infected domesticated animals. Horses, cats, dogs, and cattle can be infected by bats. Most human rabies outbreaks have been linked to bats, and the transmission of related viruses have caught the attention of the worldwide community.
Can We Prevent Bat-Borne Viruses?
There is little that can be done to prevent the spread of bat-related diseases. Studying the connections and interactions between humans, domestic animals, and bats is helpful.
That being said, if you have noticed bats or bat droppings (guano) near your home, you might have a colony of bats nesting somewhere on your property. They could even be nesting inside your attic.
Bats tend to live in wild areas such as caves and densely wooded places, but as habitats have been destroyed, more are forced to roost alongside humans.
What Should I Do About a Bat Colony in My Home?
Bats can be welcomed guests, helping to eliminate flies, mosquitoes, and midges, but they can also spread disease and should not be living inside your home. You should exercise caution if and when you decide to remove any bats from your home.
Observe your roof and attic, and take note of the holes they are coming in from. Seal them up when all the bats have left for the winter. Unlike other creatures bats cannot create new holes in your home, so filling in a hole will prevent them from coming back.
Avoid direct contact with bats at all costs. You never know what kind of disease they might have. It is always best to consult a pest control expert to properly remove bats from your property.
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