Bat disease threatens global plague
27.10.15: BATS ARE believed to be responsible for a deadly sexually transmitted disease that has claimed five lives in Australia.
The victims all either worked in bat sanctuaries or had links with someone who did. Experts fear that because the disease takes up to two years to incubate, carriers could infect many others before being diagnosed.
'We could be sitting on a time bomb here,' says Dr Doug Macoby of the Special Pathogens Branch at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.
'We have absolutely no idea how many people have been infected or how widely it has spread. We are racing to find a test to detect it.'
The virus paramyxovirus is related to those that cause measles and canine distemper. Initial symptoms are flu-like, followed by inflammation of the brain and death. As with Aids, the virus is passed on via blood and bodily fluids, so sexual contact is one route, along with dirty needles.
'We have been worried about a killer disease emerging from Australian bat colonies for some time,' says Macoby. 'They are mammals, so their viruses can pass over to us. They also live in colonies of hundreds of thousands, so their viruses are well adapted to human-type environments.' JB