July 17, 2024

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The cheapest way to avoid the next pandemic: Stay away from bats!

The cheapest way to avoid the next pandemic: Stay away from bats!


The cheapest way to avoid the next pandemic: Stay away from bats!

A recent paper in The Lancet Planetary Health argues for a general agreement to avoid disturbing bats and their habitats as a measure to prevent pandemics.

In both the SARS coronavirus outbreak in 2003 and the COVID-19 pandemic, bats were identified as the source of the viruses.

Whether the virus was transmitted through direct contact with infected bats, exposure to bat bodily fluids in caves or similar settings, or through other bat-infected animals remains uncertain, and we will likely never know.



The cheapest way to avoid the next pandemic: Stay away from bats!



Taking a step back, even if the virus is released through a laboratory accident, its original source is still a bat. But we don’t need to know all the details to take action.


Bats are known to host a variety of viruses that can infect other species, including humans. They are the source of rabies, Marburg filovirus, Hendra and Nipah paramyxoviruses, coronaviruses such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus, and fruit bats are strongly believed to be the source of Ebola virus.




Preventing epidemics requires a global taboo that humans agree to leave bats alone, giving them the habitat they need, undisturbed. 


A new analysis points to the value of a global taboo that humans agree to let bats go—not to fear them, or try to drive them away or hunt them (activities that would only distract them and increase the chances of zoonotic disease spreading)—but to allow them to live undisturbed in the habitats they need.


If an ounce of prevention is indeed worth a pound of cure, the authors emphasize that humanity must take the most basic, common-sense upstream steps to reduce our risk of another pandemic — at the interface where dangerous viruses may transfer from animals to humans.


“In a globalized world of 8 billion people, we can no longer ignore our interconnectedness with the wildlife and ecosystems around us,” said Dr Susan Lieberman, IUCN’s Vice President for International Policy. “If we want to prevent the next zoonotic epidemic, we must transform our relationship with nature, and it can start with bats.”


In short, humans must change their broken relationship with nature, especially wild animals and bats. The cost of implementing the changes we need in human behavior pales in comparison to the cost of another global pandemic (and one that could be even more destructive).


“Getting humans to work together on a global scale underlies most of the existential challenges we face, from climate change and environmental pollution to biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, at a time when sincere cooperation, even on a local scale, seems elusive,” said Steven A. Osofsky, the study’s lead author and a professor of wildlife health and health policy at Cornell University. , if we can stop deforestation, degrade their natural habitats (and even begin to restore them), we can indisputably reduce the chances of another pandemic.”


The authors stress that allowing bats to survive and reproduce would also yield billions of dollars in dividends in the form of ecosystem services bats provide, such as controlling mosquitoes and other pest insects, and pollinating a variety of important crops.

Their conclusion is that humans’ relationship with other species of animals does warrant close attention, but that respect for bats and their required habitats is indeed the lowest hanging fruit of true upstream pandemic prevention — an important “better late than never” message now that we’re past the third anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic.





The cheapest way to avoid the next pandemic: Stay away from bats!

(source:internet, reference only)

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