Yes, we said bat flu! This newly discovered flu virus is a type of influenza A virus, with a scientific name of H17. Scientists discovered the influenza while testing the bats for other types of viruses; they believe that H17 is distantly related to the strains of influenza A that are prevalent in humans today.
|Image courtesy CDC/ Amanda Mills|
Why test bats, you ask? Well, they’re the second-largest group of mammals on the planet, and they live almost everywhere on earth, except for the Arctic and Antarctic. They’re known to host other types of viruses, like Ebola and the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, also known as SARS. And because they live in groups and are capable of flying, they could potentially spread whatever viruses they carry — to other bats, other animals and perhaps to humans.
By studying bats and bat flu, researchers can learn more about the influenza and how it’s spread — hopefully keeping us safer in the process!