do bats carry covid-19?


Researchers continue to look for the original source of the virus causing COVID-19. But so far, SARS-CoV-2 has not been found in any bats or other wild animals. Coronaviruses similar to SARS-CoV-2 have been found in horseshoe bats in Asia, a very different bat from the species that live in North America. In fact, more than 1,300 species of bats exist in the world and around 47 of those species are in North America, so far SARS-CoV-2 has not been detected in any of them.

So what exactly was found in the horseshoe bat? A coronavirus with 96% of its genome in common with SARS-CoV-2. 96% sounds significant, but is it really? It is interesting that we share 96% of our genome with chimpanzees, but we’re not the same species, demonstrating that this 96% in common is far from conclusive evidence of Covid-19 originating in bats.

Two Horseshoe bats hanging upside down on a beam in an attic

If Covid-19 did originate with bats, which we still don’t know for sure, how did it spread to humans? Zoonotic spillover. That is the transmission of a virus from an animal to a human, through a third species. However in order for that to happen a virus must get through a series of barriers that would normally prevent humans becoming infected. How do these barriers get broken down? Often it is through the actions of humans themselves. 

For example, the live wildlife markets, where many different species of wild animals are brought together in cramped and unsanitary conditions, could be an ideal environment for the breakdown of viral barriers. The different species in these markets would not be found together in such close proximity in the wild. This could increase the chance of viruses jumping from one species to another.

Another theory on the origin of COVID-19 is that it escaped from a laboratory in China. The WHO has stated that there is insufficient scientific evidence to rule out any hypotheses, including this one. Investigations led by the WHO are still underway to find the source and confirm how the virus entered the human population, access to all the data is necessary to reach a scientific conclusion. It’s a difficult task and it will take time. 

microscope checking for disease

If COVID-19 did originate in bats can we say that they caused the pandemic?

As previously mentioned, human activities that alter the environment can increase the risk of a virus being transmitted from wildlife to people. So whether it was the live wildlife market or a lab in China, we would conclude that humans caused the pandemic. It may have originated in an animal but it is being sustained through human to human transmission. 

Should you worry about bats with COVID-19?

It has been suggested by some that bats should be destroyed in an effort to wipe out COVID-19. While the killing of bats would have no effect on the spread of COVID-19, it would eliminate the many benefits they bring to our ecosystems. Pollination, seed dispersal and pest control, worth billions of dollars annually, are just some of the benefits that bats provide us with.

a bat feeding off of a flower in the arizona desert while still flying

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, none of the bat species in North America are known to have the virus that causes Covid-19 and to reiterate, close contact with a person who is infected is the main way that COVID-19 spreads. It is humans that transmit COVID-19 to other humans, not bats.

Regardless of COVID-19 if you think you have bats in your property you should call bat removal professionals to evaluate the situation. While bats won’t give you Covid they could pose a danger to your health and your property. Give us a call on 877 264-2287 if you need help.

Your Local Bat Removal Specialist,

Michael Koski

Get Bats Out Owner and President Michael Koski

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