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Bats and rabies

posted May 25, 2012, 2:06 AM by Mark Rose
With the tragic case in this week's news about a London grandmother having contracted the rabies virus after being bitten by a dog in Asia, this disease is very much in the spotlight. HBG would like to remind members, and the general public, that comprehensive information on rabies in relation to UK bats can be found on the Bat Conservation Trust's website, here.
 
The European Bat Lyssaviruses (EBLVs) are related to the "classical" rabies virus, which is not present in UK wildlife. It is extremely important for bat workers and public alike to adopt sensible precautions to minimise the risk of contracting EBLV, however it should be noted that:
- EBLV is very rare in UK bats. The Veterinary Laboratories Agency has tested over 9000 bats since 1986 and none have tested positive for the live virus. The virus has never been identified in species which commonly roost in people's homes, such as pipistrelles or brown long-eared.
- EBLV is not readily spread to humans. The virus can potentially be transmitted where an infected bat scratches or bites a human - transmission cannot occur without direct contact through broken skin. All UK bats are insectivorous, and want nothing more than to avoid close contact with humans! On the rare occasions where people are bitten (usually through rescuing injured bats, which are frightened and defensive), the virus is still not readily transmitted. Since the eighties there have been around 200 people across Europe who have been bitten by bats which were later confirmed to have the virus - all were given appropriate treatment and none contracted the disease.
- EBLV will not infect your pet cat. With the number of injured bats brought in by domestic cats every year, we would certainly know about it by now if the virus was capable of infecting cats!
 
In the battle for conservation nothing is more important than public opinion. In adopting sensible precautions against EBLV, we are not only protecting ourselves but safeguarding the conservation of all bat species.