Misleading Herpes Claims Bat Flash, ScienceAlert.com, 3/4/2016

Objective Achieved–No need for further action. 

Thanks to Bat Fan participation, the scary photo was replaced, and no further misrepresentations have been reported. The photographer likes bats, was dismayed by the inappropriate use of his photo and has withdrawn it from circulation.

 March 15, 2016 

B A T   F L A S H!  Bats need our help!

We are calling you to action!

We have emailed Merlin’s response below to the editor of Science Alert. We are asking you to add your voice. Please contact Science Alert and tell them what you think about the article cited below. We have included contacts and instructions below. Let them know that their distorted photo and inaccurate story are a gross misrepresentation of bats that will greatly harm conservation efforts on behalf of exceptionally valuable animals. We must work together to respond to these irresponsible articles that are perpetuating an unnecessary fear of bats. We prefer for you to express your personal feelings but you may also copy and paste from Merlin’s response if needed.

Science Alert published an article titled Scientists have discovered a new herpes virus in bats that could infect humans, by Jacinta Bowler in the February 28, 2016 issue and it is an unfortunate misrepresentation of bats. The lead photo portrays a bat that was provoked into a snarling pose and subsequently edited to make its upper canines appear as enlarged fangs.

Though the story eventually admits that herpes viruses are widespread in wildlife and normally of minimal public health consequence, it appears deliberately written to frighten readers about bats. Claiming bats as the source of the 2014 Ebola epidemic is based on weak conjecture, and a growing number of leading virologists doubt this premature conclusion, suggesting a wide variety of uninvestigated possibilities (see Merlin’s update based on the Nature News report).

A recent study discovered hundreds of new viruses in a single human, and new ones can be found wherever we look, so finding 66 in bats is meaningless. Most viruses are benign and many are likely essential to our very survival. “None of these recently discovered novel viruses first identified in bats have yet been shown to be a significant public health concern.” (see Bats and Viruses, 2015, Wang and Cowled, eds, p. 218).

Grossly exaggerated speculation about potential harm from bats is lucrative, propagated by those who benefit most from needless public fear of bats. Misdirected fear is diverting millions of public health dollars from much higher priorities and seriously harming conservation progress for bats that consume vast numbers of disease-spreading pests, significantly reduce dependence on dangerous insecticides and have one of our planet’s finest safety records. The odds of being harmed by a bat are virtually zero for anyone who simply leaves them alone.

Please send your responses to editor@sciencealert.comScience Alert on Facebook, and/or Science Alert on Twitter.

Our amplified voices together can make a difference! Thank you for your support, participation, and care for bats.

This is what a Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) really looks like when it hasn’t been tormented into snarling.
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