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    Dear Media: Please Exaggerate The Risks Of Bat Flu
    By Hank Campbell | February 27th 2012 04:40 PM | 6 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0®.

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone ever had. Others may prefer Newton or Archimedes...

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    If if you're in media and tired old swine flu sounds too hammy to generate page views and bird flu does not make your audience cry fowl any more, there is good disease news - scientists may have found flu in bats. If bats can get a virus, why can't humans, in an anthropogenic, anthropocentric world?  

    Well, it isn't necessarily the flu in bats but it is genetic fragments of a flu virus. The precautionary principle says we'd better start vaccinating right now - if it's a slow news week because no singers have died and no white kids have been kidnapped, that is.

    This isn't the first time someone has claimed to find flu in bats.  Russians did that years ago but Russians make a lot of claims. There was no evidence to it, any more than there was evidence for this:


    You care about kids, right?  Then please bring attention to this article by getting it on the front page of the Drudge Report and fomenting mass hysteria about bat flu. It's for the children.

    CDC researchers in Guatemala studying rabies found the flu fragments as a part of their work.  They found genes for a virus, not the virus itself. Bird flu researchers may be concerned that media attention will be drawn away from them during this important flu-coverage season. Richard "Mick" Fulton, a bird disease researcher at Michigan State University, told the Associated Press, "In my mind, if you can't grow the virus, how do you know that the virus is there?"

    That's not just philosophy.

    Now, I am not saying you will get bat flu, that would be irresponsible.  But I am not saying you won't either (wink wink). However, if you are in mainstream science journalism and have run out of miracle vegetable claims, feel free to run with a panic story about bat flu and not credit me. All that has to happen, since these bats don't actually bite people, is for a bat to bite a piece of fruit, and then for a Mad Scientist to take that fruity virus and mix it with some other influenza and...

    Oh, too late.  The Associated Press beat me to it.
    But it still could pose a threat to humans. For example, if it mingled with more common forms of influenza, it could swap genes and mutate into something more dangerous, a scenario at the heart of the global flu epidemic movie "Contagion."
    "Contagion"?  Well, if it was in a Hollywood movie, it must be science.  The media has not been so enchanted with a science metaphor since CNN newsman Miles O’Brien made a career of citing "The Day After Tomorrow" for his comprehensive knowledge of climate modeling.

    Citation: Suxiang Tong, Yan Li, Pierre Rivailler, Christina Conrardy, Danilo A. Alvarez Castillo, Li-Mei Chen, Sergio Recuenco, James A. Ellison, Charles T. Davis, Ian A. York, Amy S. Turmelle, David Moran, Shannon Rogers, Mang Shi, Ying Tao, Michael R. Weil, Kevin Tang, Lori A. Rowe, Scott Sammons, Xiyan Xu, Michael Frace, Kim A. Lindblade, Nancy J. Cox, Larry J. Anderson, Charles E. Rupprecht, and Ruben O. Donis, 'A distinct lineage of influenza A virus from bats', PNAS 2012 ; published ahead of print February 27, 2012, doi:10.1073/pnas.1116200109

    Comments

    Gerhard Adam
    If if you're in media and tired old swine flu sounds too hammy to generate page views and bird flu does not make your audience cry fowl any more, there is good disease news - scientists may have found flu in bats.
    You're driving me batty with these kinds of articles.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    The book is finished which means now I basically have plenty of time to troll the Internet for animal-related puns to write about.
    Gerhard Adam
    So that's what you're crowing about.  I thought you were fishing for an opinion, but figured you're trying to weasel your way into a quick post instead of worming your way out of a response.

    You may think I'm horsing around, but I won't badger you about it.  Better to let sleeping dogs lie.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Unbelievable amounts of awesome. Science + animal puns = journalistic gold.

    aqk
    The media should take more notice of bats' White Nose Syndrome, and try to promote some hysteria around this "promising" phenomenon
    It has so far killed more than six million bats in eastern North America in the last year or two.
    Did you notice more mosquitoes last summer? The bats haven't been taking care of them as usual.

    There used to be a bat colony in my attic. They would come out each evening and flit around the lawn and nearby woods, consuming all the mosquitoes and other flying insects. I haven't seen any for the past two summers.

    Now, all I can do is periodically check my face in the mirror, looking for that telltale WNS fungus that may any day
    erupt and start consuming my nose and other facial features. After that it's only a matter of time. Why haven't the media alarmed us yet to this possibility? They're not doing their job.
    If GWB was still POTUS, I bet he'd be treating WNS as seriously as the WMDs!

    Hank
    I agree. There is real bat health we should be concerned about but because it can't affect humans - even in pretend media hysteria world - few people care.