"Are bats the ones to blame?"
"I am not sure what information is true and what is false"
What about bats & COVID-19 ?
Bats are among the most misunderstood creatures on the planet. Myths have always surrounded these flying mammals and now more than ever they need our help. Bats are being blamed for something they did not do, this time it is spreading the deadly coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) to people. Bats do not spread COVID-19, people do!
You can read our full 'Bats and COVID-19 Statement' here in English and in Chichewa.
What is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family (the Coronaviridae) of viruses which includes a small number of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses. There are many types of coronavirus but not all are harmful. SARS-CoV-2 is coronavirus that was first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and causes the diseases COVID-19. COVID-19 is a zoonosis, a human disease of animal origin.
Where did SARS-CoV-2 come from?
The short answer is that we don’t know for sure yet. Scientists do agree that COVID-19, is caused by a coronavirus that originally came from an animal. However, the animal source of SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic, has not yet been confirmed and there is no evidence that bats infected humans in the first place. Scientific investigations are pointing to a chain of events that may have involved bats but most likely only through an intermediate animal. SARS-CoV-2 is the third pathogenic novel coronavirus to emerge over the past two decades. Many animals carry coronaviruses and are potential sources of infection. For example, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was confirmed in dromedary camels, and civet cats were identified as the intermediate species in the 2003 SARS-CoV pandemic.
All animals have viruses that live inside them, and bats, as well as a range of other mammal groups (including humans), happen to be natural carriers of a variety of coronaviruses. However, it is human activity and alterations to our environment that led to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be through changes in human behaviour in relation to wildlife that we may be able to prevent future pandemics. For example, activities such as the destruction of natural habitats through deforestation, fragmentation of habitats through building roads, and intensive livestock farming on cleared land, all bring wildlife into closer contact with humans (and livestock) than would naturally happen. In turn this contact can provide the opportunity for a spill-over event such as the one that led to COVID-19. To prevent future outbreaks, we need to stop uncontrolled habitat destruction, and control the trade and consumption of wild animals.
But I Have Bats In My House, Will They Give Me COVID-19?
Bats do not spread the virus that causes COVID-19, it is being transmitted from humans to other humans. It is transmission between people that has spread the disease globally. This is why social distancing measures were implemented around the globe to slow its spread.
There have been numerous reports that communities and governmental authorities in several regions of the world have been culling bats in a misplaced effort to combat the disease. However, culling of bats and the negative views of the animals spread during this pandemic are wrong. Culling bats will not end the COVID-19 pandemic or any future emerging infectious disease outbreaks, in fact this may well increase future dangers since stressed animals may become more disease prone.
Exterminating bat roosts won’t do anything to reduce the risk and we cannot try to eliminate the risk by exterminating wild animals. Killing of bats would adversely affect the conservation status of bat populations and their associated benefits for humans. There are over 1400 species of bats globally (and 64 species here in Malawi), providing provide enormous benefits to humans and the natural world, including pollination, seed dispersal and agricultural insect pest control, which is worth billions of dollars annually.
Bats & The Law
In Malawi some bats species are legally protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act (2018) and the killing, injuring, possession or dealing in these bats carries a sentence of 30 years in jail.
Download a printable leaflet about bats and the law in Malawi here.
Find out more about bats and the law in Malawi by heading over to our Legislation page here.