Batcon Pakistan Bats and Disease Position Statement

Batcon Pakistan recognizes that human health, animal health, and ecosystem health are inextricably linked.

Experts now estimate that 75% of all emerging human infectious diseases originate in animal populations, among them bats and other mammals. Contact between people, livestock and wildlife increases as the growing human population encroaches into natural areas and as some species adapt to co-exist in close proximity to humans. This increased contact poses a challenge for both health practitioners and conservationists in the task of preventing the spillover of pathogens from wild animals to humans and livestock and protecting wildlife and their habitats. Conservation of habitats and limitation of human-wildlife contact are only two of the elements considered to mitigate this issue.

Batcon Pakistan is committed to an integrated One Health approach to work with communities to protect human health and conserve the world’s bats. The One Health Initiative seeks to promote, improve, and defend the health and well-being of all species by enhancing cooperation and collaboration between physicians, veterinarians, other scientific health, and environmental professionals.

With more than 1430 species, bats are the second largest group of mammals on Earth. Batcon Pakistan recognizes the serious challenge of effectively preventing, responding and managing zoonotic spillover events that may be linked to bats.

Batcon Pakistan is dedicated to the enduring protection of the world’s bats and their habitats and creating a world in which bats and humans successfully coexist. Batcon Pakistan believes that effective bat conservation can help reduce the risk of zoonotic disease through better understanding and effective management of human-bat interactions. In particular, Batcon Pakistan supports interdisciplinary conservation action and ethical, well-designed research to better understand the relationships between bat ecology and the risk of zoonotic disease.

Batcon Pakistan encourages interaction and collaboration among different health and conservation professions in collaborative prevention, surveillance, and management of zoonotic diseases. Batcon Pakistan is dedicated to furthering this collaboration by sharing knowledge to help educate managers, researchers, policymakers, students, conservation organizations, and the public about the management of zoonotic diseases and bat conservation issues through professional networks, scientific journals, lay articles, and the media.

Bat-Human Contact

Simply left alone, bats are harmless and highly beneficial. They are fascinating creatures, vital to the balance of nature around the world. Like most wild animals, bats prefer to avoid contact with humans. But in situations where bats and humans come into close proximity, it is important to understand how to prevent negative outcomes for humans AND bats.

Several scenarios might bring bats and humans together: bats sometimes accidentally fly into a home or business through open doors or windows; they might take advantage of existing small openings into attics, wall spaces, or chimneys and roost in structures where humans live or work; and sick, injured, or dead bats sometimes fall to the ground. In each of these situations, Batcon Pakistan discourages the general public from handling bats. If touching or contact does occur, we
hope the following information will inform you about possible health risks that may apply.

Bats and Infectious Disease

Batcon Pakistan fully embraces the “One Health” movement which recognizes that conservation biologists and public health officials confront the same ecological problems. As stated in the executive summary of the “One Health” Initiative, “the convergence of people, animals, and our environment has created a new dynamic in which the health of each group is inextricably interconnected.

Research has revealed that more than 60 percent of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, and that bats are not exceptional among wildlife as potential sources of human disease. Over the last decade, increased surveillance and improved techniques for disease detection have implicated bats as likely reservoirs and vectors for a lengthening list of pathogens that can affect humans and domestic animals.

These include Marburg, Nipah, Hendra, SARS-like coronaviruses, flu virus, a panoply of lyssaviruses including rabies, and most notably, Ebola.

Rabies is a preventable viral infection of the central nervous system in mammals. Bats, like most mammals, can contract the rabies virus, but the vast majority never do. When bats do get rabies, they eventually die from the disease and do not “carry” the virus indefinitely without themselves getting sick.

The virus is typically transmitted by the bite of an infected animal – so anyone bitten by a bat (or any other wild or unknown domestic animal) should seek immediate medical attention. People can, in rare instances, contract rabies if infectious material, such as saliva from a rabid animal, gets into their eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound.