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Home » Blog » Bat Diseases That Humans Can Catch

Bat Diseases That Humans Can Catch

Bat Diseases That Humans Can Catch

Bats, those enigmatic creatures of the night, have long captured our imagination. With their delicate wings, radar-like echolocation, and mysterious nocturnal habits, bats are both fascinating and crucial to our world. But did you know that these winged wonders also play a pivotal role in our ecosystems, making them an irreplaceable piece of the natural puzzle?

Now, while bat species have garnered their fair share of myths and legends, they're also in the spotlight for something rather less glamorous: zoonotic diseases. Zoonotic diseases are those that can leap from animals to humans, and bats are known to harbor quite a few of these potentially dangerous pathogens.

But fret not, we're here to demystify these bat viruses and diseases, explore their origins, and uncover the critical balance between bat species conservation and public health. Join our Critter Stop team on this journey of knowledge and bat-information!

The Nature of Zoonotic Viruses and Diseases

First things first, what exactly are zoonotic diseases? In simple terms, they are infections emerging viruses that can be transmitted between animals and humans. These sneaky viral pathogens can jump the species barrier and wreak havoc in both animal and human populations.

How diseases typically jump from animals to humans.

The leap bat diseases from animals to humans, known as zoonotic spillover, is a complex process influenced by human interactions with a myriad of factors. Understanding this phenomenon is critical to preventing future pandemics and safeguarding public health. Let's delve into the fascinating world of cross-species transmission and explore how factors like wildlife trade, habitat destruction, and human behavior play a pivotal role in the spread of these diseases.

  1. Pathogen Diversity: Many pathogens exist in wildlife without causing harm. However, when they cross over into humans, they can become infectious. Factors such as the genetic makeup of the pathogen and the host species it encounters play a role in whether a spillover event occurs.
  2. Close Contact with Wildlife: Humans encroach upon natural habitats, bringing them into closer contact with wildlife. This contact can increase the likelihood of pathogen transmission. For example, hunters, farmers, and those involved in the wildlife trade are at higher risk of exposure to zoonotic diseases.
  3. Wildlife Trade: The global trade in wildlife, both legal and illegal, provides ample opportunities for pathogens to jump species. Markets selling live animals, such as wet markets, can be hotspots for zoonotic spillover due to the close proximity of various species and poor sanitation practices.
  4. Habitat Destruction: Deforestation, urbanization, and land-use changes disrupt ecosystems and force wildlife to adapt, potentially bringing them into contact with human settlements. This can lead to increased transmission opportunities.
  5. Climate Change: Alterations in climate can affect the distribution and behavior of wildlife and their associated pathogens. Changes in temperature and precipitation can influence disease vectors, such as mosquitoes and ticks, expanding the geographic range of diseases.
  6. Human Behavior: Cultural practices, dietary choices, and human behaviors can influence zoonotic spillover. Consuming undercooked bushmeat, for instance, can expose individuals to zoonotic diseases. Similarly, farming practices and livestock handling can facilitate pathogen transmission.
  7. Globalization: The interconnectedness of our world through travel and trade means that a zoonotic disease in one part of the world can quickly spread to other regions. Air travel, in particular, can facilitate the rapid transmission of infectious agents.
  8. Antibiotic Resistance: The misuse and overuse of antibiotics in both humans and animals can promote the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can complicate the treatment of zoonotic infections.
  9. Surveillance and Reporting: Effective surveillance systems and prompt reporting of unusual illness patterns in both animals and humans are critical for early detection and containment of zoonotic diseases.

Understanding how these factors interact and contribute to zoonotic spillover is essential for preventing future outbreaks. It highlights the need for a holistic One Health approach, which recognizes the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health. By addressing the complex web of factors that drive zoonotic transmission, we can reduce the risk of pandemics and protect both human and animal populations.

Diseases From Bats

Here we go with some of the most common diseases that a bat can transmit to humans:

1.- Rabies

2.- Ebola Virus Disease

3.- Nipah and Hendra Virus Infections

4.- SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)

5.- Histoplasmosis (caused by a fungus rather than a virus)

Bats can transmit some serious diseases
Bats can transmit some serious diseases to humans.

Rabies: The Most Well-known Bat-Related Disease

Rabies, often associated with fear and dread, is a viral disease caused by the rabies virus also known as lagos bat virus. Its symptoms, transmission methods, and the unfortunate connection between bats species and human patients with rabies are worth understanding to ensure our safety.


Rabies presents itself in two distinct stages:

1. Prodromal Stage: This initial phase, lasting a few days, is often characterized by flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, and general discomfort. The distinctive feature is tingling or twitching at the site of the animal bite.

2. Furious or Paralytic Stage: After the prodromal stage, rabies symptoms intensify. Two common forms emerge:

  • Furious Rabies: This form is marked by agitation, hallucinations, hydrophobia (fear of water), and erratic behavior. Infected individuals may become aggressive and disoriented.
  • Paralytic Rabies: In contrast, paralytic rabies results in muscle weakness, paralysis, and a lack of coordination. This form progresses more slowly than furious rabies.

Transmission Methods:

Rabies is primarily transmitted through the saliva of infected animals, most commonly via an animal biting someone. However, transmission can also occur through open wounds or mucous membranes coming into contact with infected saliva. Notably, rabies is not transmitted through casual contact with imported bats, such as touching an infected animal's fur or being near bats without direct exposure to bat urine.

The Significance of Bats in Rabies Transmission Compared to Other Animals

Contrary to popular belief, bats are not the primary villains when the bat to human transmission when it comes to rabies viral transmission. While bats can carry the rabies virus, their role in spreading it is often misunderstood.

  • Low Incidence: Bats, including both fruit bats and insect-eating bats, have a relatively low incidence of rabies compared to other mammals like raccoons, skunks, and foxes. In fact, only a small percentage of bats are infected with the rabies virus.
  • Limited Human Exposure: Due to their nocturnal nature and avoidance of humans, bats are less likely to come into contact with people compared to some terrestrial mammals. Most bat species pose little to no risk to humans in terms of rabies transmission.
  • Misconceptions: Misconceptions about bats as disease vectors have led to unwarranted fear and persecution of these beneficial animals. It's important to recognize that not all bats carry rabies, and they play a vital role in maintaining ecological balance by controlling insect populations. It is also important to remember that some diseases that could be fakely related to bats like salmonella, are just a myth. 

Prevention and Treatment

While rabies is a deadly disease, it is also entirely preventable. Here's what you need to know:

  • Prevention: The most effective way to prevent rabies is through vaccination. If you are in an area where rabies is endemic or if you work with animals at risk of carrying the virus, consider getting vaccinated. Additionally, practicing safe behavior around animals and avoiding contact with wildlife, especially in rabies-prone areas, is crucial.
  • Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP): If you suspect you've been exposed to the rabies virus through a bite or scratch from a potentially rabid animal, seek medical attention immediately. PEP, a series of rabies vaccinations, can prevent the virus from progressing to a symptomatic stage if administered promptly.
  • Treatment: Unfortunately, once rabies symptoms manifest, the disease is almost always fatal. Hence, early intervention with PEP is vital.

As you see, the question do bats carry rabies? Has been answered. While rabies is a terrifying disease, understanding its symptoms, transmission methods, and the role of bats in rabies transmission can dispel misconceptions about endemic disease and promote responsible behavior around wildlife. By prioritizing prevention, vaccination, and timely medical care in cases of potential exposure, we can ensure that rabies remains a rare and preventable threat to human health.

Causes and the Bat Connection

Alright, let's demystify histoplasmosis, a fungal condition you might not have heard of. This sneaky fungus, Histoplasma capsulatum, loves to hang out in places with lots of bird or bat droppings. Picture old caves, attics, or spots where bats do their business.

Link to Bats:

Now, here's the bat twist! Histoplasmosis gets linked to bats because of their droppings. When bats take over a cave or attic, their droppings pile up over time. Guess what happens then? The fungus Histoplasma capsulatum throws a spore party in the bat guano there, and those spores can become airborne.

Symptoms and How to Deal with It

So, what happens if you accidentally crash this fungal spore party?


Well, they can vary. Some folks might barely notice, while others might experience fever, cough, chest pain, and feeling tired and achy all over. If things get really wild, the infection can spread and cause more severe symptoms.

Treatment Options:

If the fungal spore party gets out of hand, don't fret. There are antifungal medications that can kick those spores to the curb. The specific meds and how long you'll need them depend on how wild the party got and how healthy you are.

Keeping It Cool, Especially Around Bats

Now, let's talk prevention in a bat-rich world:

Get Your Bat Gear On: If you're headed into caves or other species of guano-prone areas, it's time for your party gear! Mask up, glove up, and shield those peepers to keep those spores at bay.

Let Fresh Air In: If you're exploring bat-infested indoor spots, don't forget to crack open a window. Good ventilation can help scatter those spores and make your risk of exposure to bat disease drop faster than a mic.

Hands, Clothes, Repeat: After your adventure, wash up and change clothes to get rid of any lingering spores. Think of it as your post-party cleanup routine.

Respect the Bat Caves: Try not to disturb bat hangouts or guano-packed caves. You don't want to be the one who accidentally sends spores into the air, right?

See a Doc If Needed: If you start feeling under the weather after a bat adventure, don't wait! See a healthcare pro pronto. Early treatment can keep that fungal spore party from getting out of control.

So, there you have it, the lowdown on histoplasmosis and how to stay safe around bats. Remember, bats are pretty cool creatures, and with a little know-how, you can enjoy their company without crashing any fungal spore parties!

Nipah and Hendra Viruses: The Thrilling (and Terrifying) Tale

Hold onto your seats; we're diving into the spine-tingling world of Nipah and Hendra viruses. If you think these sound like something out of a sci-fi thriller, you're not alone. But sadly, they're very real. Let's start by getting the lowdown on these deadly diseases and their connection to bats.

Nipah Virus:

Imagine a virus that can cause severe respiratory and neurological symptoms. That's Nipah virus, a pathogen with a startlingly high mortality rate. It was first identified in Malaysia in the late '90s when it caused a deadly outbreak among pig farmers and those who had close contact with pigs.

But here's the chilling part: bats, specifically fruit bats, are believed to be the natural reservoir hosts of this virus. When the virus spills over from infected bats to infect humans too, it can lead to outbreaks with devastating consequences.

Hendra Virus:

Now, let's talk about Hendra virus, another viral nightmare. It's known for causing a severe respiratory illness in both horses and humans. Hendra was first identified in Australia in 1994 and has since cropped up sporadically.

Just like Nipah, the culprit here seems to be bats, with flying foxes being the primary suspects. Horses usually get infected first, and then it can jump to humans, leading to a deadly game of viral hot potato.

How Bats Play a Role in Their Transmission

Now, let's unveil the cloak of mystery around how bats are involved in the transmission of Nipah and Hendra, viruses related to human infections. These winged creatures aren't the villains; they're more like unwitting carriers emerging infectious diseases.

You see, bats, especially fruit bats, can carry these viruses in their saliva and urine. When they chow down on fruits and nectar, they may leave traces of the virus behind. If a horse or a human comes into direct contact with these contaminated materials, that's when the trouble begins.

But here's the crucial part: bats themselves often don't get sick from these viruses. They're more like silent carriers, which makes it even trickier to track and prevent outbreaks. So, while bats are key players in this viral drama, they're not the villains—they're just doing their bat thing.

Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Now that you know the cast of characters and their roles, let's get into the nitty-gritty:


Nipah and Hendra viruses are no walk in the park. Symptoms can range from fever and headache to severe respiratory distress and neurological problems. Early detection is crucial for a chance at survival.


Treatment options are limited, which is why prevention is key. There's no specific antiviral medication, so supportive care is the mainstay of treatment. That's why understanding the importance of prevention is absolutely critical.


Preventing Nipah and Hendra virus outbreaks comes down to some straightforward (but not always easy) steps:

  • Avoiding Contact: Steer clear of sick animals, especially horses that may be infected. And remember, bats are best admired from a distance.
  • Hygiene: Maintain good hygiene practices, like washing your hands thoroughly after handling animals or their fluids.
  • Protective Gear: If you're a healthcare worker or involved in animal care, appropriate protective gear is a must to prevent exposure.
  • Vaccination: For horses, there's a vaccine available for Hendra virus, which is a win-win for both equines and humans.

So, there you have it—the thrilling tale of Nipah and Hendra viruses and their connection to bats. Knowledge is your superpower when it comes to staying safe from these viral villains, and it all begins with understanding how bats unwittingly play a role in this viral drama.

Bats in the tree
Bats will naturally avoid contact with humans, so try to keep your distance from them to keep dangerous diseases away.  

SARS-CoV and Bats: Unmasking the Enigma

It's the early 2000s, and a global health crisis is unfolding. People are falling seriously ill, and a mysterious respiratory illness is spreading like wildfire. That's the backdrop of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak. It was like a plot from a suspenseful thriller. But did you know that bats might hold the key to unraveling this mysterious human disease too?

Research Findings Linking Bats to the Virus

Now, let's get into the heart of the matter—the research findings that have stirred both controversy and enlightenment. These findings point to a striking connection between SARS and bats that challenges our understanding of the disease.

The SARS outbreak left the world in shock, but it also triggered a scientific quest to trace the origins of the virus. Researchers embarked on a journey to unravel the mystery, and here's what they found:

  • Bats as Reservoirs: Bats, those enigmatic creatures of the night, were identified as potential reservoirs of the SARS virus. These flying mammals, known for their incredible adaptability and ubiquity across the globe, were suddenly under scrutiny.
  • Genetic Matches: Through genetic analysis, scientists discovered a significant similarity between the SARS virus found in bats and the one that had infected humans during the outbreak. It was like finding a genetic fingerprint that linked the two.
  • Intermediate Hosts: But here's where the plot thickens. While bats seemed to be the original carriers, it appeared that an intermediate host, possibly palm civets or raccoon dogs, played a role in transmitting the virus to humans. These animals were often sold in live animal markets, creating a potential bridge for the virus to leap from bats to humans.
  • Controversy and Caution: These findings sparked debate and controversy. While bats were identified as a likely source, some questioned whether other factors were at play. Nevertheless, the link between bats and SARS could not be ignored, and it raised critical questions about how we interact with wildlife and the risks involved.

Importance of Understanding This Connection for Future Pandemic Prevention

Now, fast forward several or several bat species over to the present, where the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic. The importance of comprehending the connection between bats and diseases like SARS has never been more apparent. Here's why this knowledge is a game-changer for future pandemic preparedness:

  • Early Detection: Understanding the role of bats in hosting and potentially transmitting viruses allows us to be vigilant. Early detection and monitoring of bat populations can serve as an early warning system for potential threats.
  • Responsible Wildlife Interaction: Armed with this knowledge, we can adopt responsible practices when interacting with wildlife, particularly in regions where bats are prevalent. This includes avoiding the consumption of wildlife and minimizing disturbance to their habitats.
  • Vaccine Development: Research into the bat-virus connection can contribute to the development of vaccines and treatments for emerging diseases. Learning from nature's own survivors, bats, could hold the key to preventing future pandemics.

The link between bats and diseases like SARS is a story of intrigue, complexity, and caution. It's a story that continues to unfold as we navigate the challenges of our ever-changing world. By understanding this connection, we can better prepare for and prevent future pandemics, ensuring a healthier and safer future for all.

Ebola Virus and Fruit Bats: Unraveling the Mystery

Say the word "Ebola," and it sends shivers down your spine. It's a name for bat disease that strikes fear into hearts around the world. But what exactly is this deadly virus, and what's the deal with fruit bats?

Ebola Virus:

Ebola virus disease, or simply Ebola, is a highly contagious and often fatal illness in humans. The virus is named after the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it was first identified in 1976 during two simultaneous outbreaks. Ebola is notorious for causing severe hemorrhagic fever, with symptoms ranging from fever and fatigue to internal and external bleeding. It's a devastating disease with a high mortality rate.

The Suspected Role of Fruit Bats in Its Transmission

Now, let's get to the heart of the matter: are fruit bats the culprits behind Ebola outbreaks? It's a question that has puzzled scientists and the public alike.

The Bat Connection:

Fruit bats, also known as flying foxes, are suspected to be natural hosts of the Ebola virus. These bats are found in various parts of Africa, including regions where several species of Ebola outbreaks have occurred. But here's the twist – while fruit bats may carry the virus, they don't seem to get sick from it.

Challenges of Pinpointing the Source:

Pinpointing the exact source of Ebola has been a formidable challenge. It's believed that the virus can spill over from bats to other animals, which may then transmit it to humans. This makes it difficult to trace the origin of outbreaks.

The Role of Bushmeat:

One possible route of transmission is through the consumption of bushmeat, which includes wild animals hunted for food. In some regions, people may come into contact with animals that have been infected with the virus.

Conservation and Caution:

Understanding the potential link between fruit bats and Ebola is vital not only for public health but also for conservation efforts. Fruit bats play crucial roles in ecosystems, such as pollinating plants and dispersing seeds. Striking a balance between protecting these animals and preventing disease transmission is a delicate task.

The connection between fruit bats and Ebola is a complex and ongoing mystery. While fruit bats may be carriers of the virus, many factors contribute to its transmission to humans. By unraveling this mystery and adopting responsible practices in wildlife interaction and consumption isolated from bats, we can strive to prevent future Ebola outbreaks while preserving the important role of fruit bat habitat and bats in our ecosystems.

Prevention and Risk Reduction: Shielding Ourselves and Bats

Let's get one thing crystal clear from the start – never, ever handle bats! It might seem like common sense, but we're going to drive this point home because it's a big, bold NO.

Why No Bat-Handling:

Bats are not pets, and they're not domestic animals meant to be cuddled or kept as companions. Handling bats, especially in the wild, is a strict no-no. Here's why:

  • Risk of Disease: All bat species can carry diseases, some of which can be transmitted to humans. It's not just about protecting them; it's about safeguarding yourself too.
  • Stress for Bats: Bats are sensitive creatures. Handling them can cause immense stress, which is harmful to their health.
  • Legal Protections: In many places, it's illegal to handle bats without proper permits and training. Respect the law, folks!

Vaccinations (Where Available) and Protective Measures

Now, let's talk about the silver lining – some diseases have vaccines! These vaccines can be your shield of protection. We'll discuss the vaccines and protective measures that can help keep you safe.

Vaccination Options:

For diseases like rabies, vaccines are available. If you work in professions that put you at risk of exposure, such as healthcare or wildlife conservation, getting vaccinated is a smart move.

Protective Measures:

Prevention is often the best cure. Here are some protective measures to keep in mind:

  • Avoid High-Risk Activities: If you're not a trained professional, avoid activities that put you at risk of bat contact, like handling them without proper gear or entering caves with high bat populations.
  • Wear Protective Gear: If you must work with bats, wear appropriate protective gear such as gloves and masks. Safety first!

The Role of Responsible Tourism and Caving Practices

For all you travelers and adventure seekers out there, listen up! We'll explore responsible tourism and caving practices that ensure both your safety and the welfare of bat species.

Responsible Tourism:

When visiting caves or bat habitats, follow these guidelines:

  • Observe From a Distance: Admire bats from afar and never disturb their roosts.
  • Follow Local Regulations: Respect the rules and regulations in place to protect wildlife and their habitats.

Caving Practices:

If you're a caver, remember these practices:

  • Decontamination: Follow decontamination procedures to prevent the spread of diseases between caves and bat colonies.
  • Respect Closed Caves: Some caves are closed to protect bats during sensitive times, such as hibernation. Respect these closures.

Balancing Concern with Conservation: Coexisting with Bats

Before we cast bats as villains, let's remember their incredible ecological significance. Bats are nature's pest controllers. They dine on insects that harm crops and spread diseases, making them invaluable contributors to our ecosystems.

Why Eradication or Harm Isn't the Answer

While fear might tempt us to eliminate bats from the equation, we'll explain why such extreme measures would do more harm than good. Eradicating bats would disrupt ecosystems and could lead to a rise in insect pests, ultimately harming agriculture and human well-being.

Promoting Coexistence While Ensuring Human Health

The key lies in finding a harmonious balance between human health and bat conservation. We'll discuss ways to coexist peacefully with these remarkable creatures:

  • Educate and Raise Awareness: Knowledge is power. Educate yourself and others about the importance of bats and the risks associated with handling them.
  • Support Conservation Efforts: Back organizations and initiatives dedicated to bat conservation. Your support can make a real difference.
  • Practice Responsible Behavior: Whether you're a tourist, a caver, or a wildlife enthusiast, practice responsible behavior around bats and their habitats.
bat hanging in a stone
Despite the diseases that bats can transmit, we have to promote their safeguard because of the important role that they have in nature. 

Prevention and risk reduction for bat diseases can go hand in hand with responsible behavior and conservation efforts for wild bats. By respecting bats, safeguarding your health, and supporting their conservation, we can find a way to peacefully coexist with these remarkable creatures and ensure a healthier planet for all.


In our journey through the mysterious world of bats and zoonotic viruses diseases, we've uncovered the facts, debunked the myths, and explored the complex relationship between these creatures' natural hosts, and were able to know what diseases do bats carry. 

As we conclude, to avoid diseases carried by bats it's important to remember that knowledge is your best defense. By understanding and respecting bats and their vital place in our world, we can ensure a healthier and more balanced coexistence. So, let's celebrate the winged wonders and ensure they continue to enchant our nights without posing a threat to our health.

Thanks for joining Critter’s Stop team through this bat-world. We hope that with all this information, you can understand better the real implications of bats in some diseases, and be able to identify symptoms, methods of prevention, and what to do in case of risk. If you wanna talk with us, call us (214) 234-2616 and we will be happy to hear you.

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