Scary bat story requires prompt response, Gizmodo, 11/8/15

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Case Closed–No  further action needed. 

No additional misrepresentations have been reported. Thank you Bat Fans for your participation. May 24, 2016 

 

 

 

Grossly exaggerated stories attempting to link bats to dread diseases, generate readership and grants but divert attention from far higher priorities at great harm to environmental and human health.  If not promptly countered with facts, they could reverse decades of progress in conserving some of our most beneficial and harmless animals. Bat fans united can be very influential.

An especially harmful headline, “Bats Played a Crucial Role in Giving Us Hepatitus,” appeared in the November 4, 2015 release of Gizmodo, a popular technology website. Merlin has already sent his response, putting facts in perspective, to Gizmodo’s Science Editor, Jennifer Ouellette, jennifer.ouellette@gizmodo.com. Please take a moment now to add your voice. You need not say more than that you are deeply offended. When enough of us protest, editors do pay attention!

Author Esther Inglis-Arkell cites as her source a paper, titled “Evolutionary origins of hepatitis A virus in small mammals” by Drexler et al. However, the paper contradicts her claim of “a crucial role” for bats, instead stating that “Ancestral state reconstructions suggest a Hepatovirus origin in small insectivorous mammals and a rodent origin of human HAV.” Her unsubstantiated headline is what most readers will remember. Though in her final paragraph she does say “Bats aren’t currently flying hep A vectors,” she can’t resist mentioning that bats are “vectors for rabies.”

In reality bats have one of our planet’s finest records of living safely with people. In a more than 50-year career, Merlin has personally studied hundreds of species worldwide, often surrounded by millions at a time in caves, and has never been harmed. Put in perspective, far more humans die annually from dog-transmitted rabies than from all the so-called “emerging diseases” combined, and the odds of death from a dog attack dwarf those of death from any bat-transmitted disease. For anyone who simply doesn’t handle bats, the odds of harm are incalculably small. Yet we love our dogs while spending millions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars searching for reasons to fear bats! For more information about bats and disease issues, visit our resource pages and read Merlin’s book, The Secret Lives of Bats.

 

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