The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is recommending that wildlife biologists suspend fieldwork that involves capturing or handling bats because they’re concerned about the novel coronavirus passing from researchers to North American bats. Biologists worry that if SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is able to pass to North American bats, it could harm those populations, particularly those already compromised by white-nose syndrome. They worry it could also create a new reservoir for the virus, which likely originated in China’s horseshoe bats. The government emailed bat biologists an advisory in late March about these concerns.
“We know that many mammals are susceptible to infection by a diversity of coronaviruses,” a Fish and Wildlife spokesperson said in a statement. “What is not known is whether the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has the potential to infect, or cause illness in, North American wildlife, including bats.”