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How to Keep Bats from Causing the Pandemic Next Time

Posted by Richard Conniff on September 10, 2013

The Indian flying fox (Photo: Gavriel Jecan/Getty Images)

The Indian flying fox (Photo: Gavriel Jecan/Getty Images)

In 2007, in a rural district in northwestern Bangladesh, a man fell ill with fever, followed by fatigue, headache, and coughing. His wife tended to him at home over the next four days, feeding him and wiping froth and saliva from around his mouth. When he began to have trouble breathing, a cousin and a friend rode to the doctor’s office with the patient sandwiched between them on a motorcycle. The next day, they transported him via microbus to the nearest hospital, where he quickly died. All five people in close contact with the patient in his final days soon came down with the disease, known as Nipah virus, and the wife and cousin also died.

It was a small tragedy at the other end of the Earth, and in the grand scheme of things hardly worth noting.

But a new article in the journal Antiviral Research argues that we ought to pay close attention, and not just for philanthropic reasons. Without intervention by the developed world, says Stephen P. Luby, M.D., of Stanford University, a case like this is how the next great plague could leap from wildlife and quickly turn up in our own homes. “Bring out the dead” could become the catch phrase of 2014, or 2040.

Bangladesh is among the poorest and most densely populated nations in the world, says Luby, who worked there for eight years before returning to the United States in 2012. But when he talks with people back home about poor clinical care there, and the absence of basic infection-control measures, “they see it as an issue only    …  to read the rest of this article, click here.

One Response to “How to Keep Bats from Causing the Pandemic Next Time”

  1. […] written here before about why bats are the source of so many deadly diseases–including MERS, SARS, Nipah virus, Hendra virus, Lassa and Marburg hemorrhagic fevers, and of […]

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