16th August 2007

A bat dropped off at a wildlife hospital in Shropshire has tested positive for European Bat Lyssavirus type-2 (EBLV2), a strain of rabies occasionally found in bats.

Two people were bitten by the bat, and are now receiving post-exposure rabies treatment as a precaution. Post-exposure vaccinations have been 100% effective in preventing the onset of rabies. The Health Protection Agency says the risk of humans being infected by EBVL-2 is negligible if they receive appropriate and timely medical treatment after exposure.

The female Daubenton's bat was left at the wildlife hospital by a member of the public on 12th August 2007. The bat died and, following good practice procedures, it was submitted to the Veterinary Laboratories Agency for rabies testing on 13th August 2007 as part of the routine passive surveillance programme.

Under the passive surveillance scheme, more than 6,000 bats of many species have been tested for rabies since 1987, but this is only the sixth bat that has tested positive for the virus in the UK - the other cases being in Sussex (1996), Lancashire (2002), Surrey (2004), Lancashire (2004) and Oxfordshire (2006). All have been Daubenton's bats, a species that rarely roosts in houses.

All six bats that have tested positive were submitted for testing by the unique network of more than 1,000 volunteer bat workers who work to ensure that the small risk presented by this virus is minimised further through following good practice.

Amy Coyte, Chief Executive of the Bat Conservation Trust, said: "In the UK, we have excellent systems in place for dealing with bat bite cases which enable people to get the information and advice they need as quickly as possible. We are fortunate to have a dedicated network of expert volunteers. Although the risk of the EBLV2 virus is very low, we work hard to ensure that good practice is always followed to minimise that risk even further."

"People can live in harmony with bats, and every summer thousands of people enjoy venturing out to experience bats in their local environment, such as parks, ponds and gardens."

The Bat Conservation Trust runs the National Bat Helpline (0845 1300 228), which provides free information and up-to-date advice to the public about bats. During the past year, the Bat Helpline has dealt with 32 cases of bat bites. All of the people involved had post exposure treatment as a precautionary measure. BCT works closely with the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Health Protection Agency (or Health Protection Scotland) to ensure up to date advice is given.

BCT advises people to avoid handling bats and, if it is necessary to handle a bat, then to wear gloves to avoid being bitten or scratched. In the unlikely event someone is bitten or scratched by a bat, the area should be washed thoroughly with soap and running water and medical attention should be sought immediately (even if that person already has up-to-date rabies vaccinations). Anyone who works with bats in the UK should have pre-exposure rabies vaccinations.

For further information, please contact the Bat Conservation Trust on Tel: 0845 1300 228 or visit www.bats.org.uk.

Frequently asked questions on bats and rabies can be found on the Defra website: http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/notifiable/rabies/q&a.htm

The Bat Conservation Trust is the only national charity solely devoted to conserving bats and their habitats in the UK. It has almost 4,500 members and thousands of dedicated volunteers who work together to help bats.

All bats and their roosts are protected by law.