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Recommendations of the EUROBATS Advisory Committee on potential risks of SARS-CoV-2 transmission from humans to bats*

Version 1.0 published on 11.05.2020

  • It is acknowledged that the main transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus which causes the COVID-19 disease in humans) is from person to person.
  • There is currently no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 would spread under natural conditions from people to bats and that it would circulate in bat populations. However, we recognise that there is a potential risk that SARS-CoV-2 could be transmitted from people to wildlife.
  • Many bat species roost in buildings used by people. However, transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from humans to bats is unlikely to occur under such circumstances.  
  • We appreciate the critical value of continuing bat research, monitoring and rehabilitation for bat conservation.
  • We recommend that precautionary measures should be taken to minimise any potential risk to wildlife, including bats, of contracting SARS-CoV-2 from humans.
  • As a general rule, any activities that involve contact or close proximity between bats and humans must be conducted according to the above point.
  • Relevant authorities should consider if activities involving close contact with bats (capture, handling of bats or roost inspection) could be postponed or continued. If a given activity is continued, it should only be undertaken if appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is used.
  • General recommendations on how to protect bats from the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from people include the following:
  • a) General rule: If a bat worker is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or has been in contact with a person with such symptoms (see www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus) this bat worker should not undertake any form of bat survey or handling of animals (including bats in care).
  •  b) When entering a roost or handling bats, effective measures of hygiene must be applied. People coming into close proximity of bats or handling bats should wear single-use gloves (over handling gloves if needed) and cover their mouth and nose with an appropriate face mask. Strict hygiene procedures should be followed, for example, washing hands and washing and disinfecting equipment used in bat rehabilitation or to process bats in the field (callipers, balances etc). before and after use (see recommendations on disinfectants provided by national health authorities). Single use overalls or a change of clothing should be used if visiting multiple roosts in buildings or in under-ground sites (e.g. caves, mines), and boots/shoes should be disinfected between such roost visits.
  • In accordance with EUROBATS Resolution No. 7.6 Conservation and Management of important Underground Sites for Bats and the guidance given in EUROBATS Publication Number 2 „Protection and managing underground sites for bats“, cavers and other visitors to underground sites should avoid visiting such sites or parts of the underground site in times when they are inhabited by bat colonies and keep the maximum possible distance from individual roosting bats. Following these existing recommendations and precautionary measures should significantly help to reduce any possible transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from people to bats.
  • These recommendations do not replace decisions made by national authorities

*This is a dynamic online document under continuing review, please check regularly for possible amendments!

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