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Communication, Bat Conservation and Public Health

The Group was established at the AC 17 in Larnaca as the IWG on White-Nose Syndrome
Assess the extent to which undertaken actions recommended by Resolution 6.6 of MoP6 have been applied:

  • Ensure that the bat conservation and caving communities are aware of the threat associated with the fungal infection known as White Nose Syndrome in North America and encourage liaison between them;
  • Adopt measures to raise awareness among those visiting caves in North America or any other known centres of infection of their potential to act as vectors of Geomyces destructans to Europe;
  • Raise awareness among the operators of tourist caves in Europe of the potential of those who have visited caves in North America or any other known centres of infection to act as vectors of fungal infections affecting bats;
  • Encourage surveillance for the presence of fungal infections in bats;
  • Identify laboratories with facilities to identify skin fungi and refer any such fungi found on bats for identification;
  • Plan for the contingency that a lethal fungal disease becomes established in Europe, including precautionary measures to prevent its spread, such as closing to visitors caves and mines where bats hibernate;
  • To make best use of the scientific and technical findings and recommendations that can improve knowledge of lethal fungal infections and measures to prevent their spread.
EUROBATS publications: 

Bats are sources of several newly emergent viral zoonoses (diseases transmissible to humans) such as Nipah, Hendra and SARS-CoV. There is also strong evidence that African fruit bats are a source of Ebola. When a new disease emerges, bats are thus the first suspects, as with MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), although the virus has so far been found in only a single bat but in many camels. In the recent Ebola outbreak, although the media have mentioned bats as a likely source of infection, it has concentrated more on the extreme contagiousness of the virus between humans.
However when the disease has been brought under control, it is likely that attention will turn again to bats  and the bat conservation community should be ready to answer questions from the public and the media, either through telephone ‘Helplines’ or through FAQs ( Frequently Asked Questions) sections on the websites of NGOs. 
Sources of information are:

  1. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia:www.cdc.gov
  2. Ecohealth Alliance: www.ecohealthalliance.org
  3. Bat Conservation Trust: www.bats.org.uk – for an example of updated FAQs and the Guidelines
  4. Bat Conservation International:  www.batcon.org – presently preparing a mission statement on bats and disease for publication on its website.    
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