22nd October 2008

Tests have confirmed the presence of European Bat Lyssavirus type 2 (EBLV-2), a strain of bat rabies, in a Daubenton's bat submitted to the Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Weybridge, Surrey.

The bat carcase was sent for routine testing after being found dead in Shropshire. There is no evidence that anybody was bitten or scratched by this bat.

EBLV-2 has previously been isolated from seven UK bats since 1996, in Sussex, Lancashire, Surrey, Oxfordshire, and Shropshire. The last case occurred in May 2008. All have been Daubenton's bats, a species that rarely roosts in houses.

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

It is known that there is a low occurrence of EBLV-2 in Daubenton's bats in England. This does not affect the UK's rabies-free animal health status under international guidelines.

The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) advises people to avoid handling bats but, if it is necessary to handle a bat, then to wear gloves to avoid being bitten or scratched. In the unlikely event that someone is bitten or scratched by a bat, the bite or scratch 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). 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.

All species of bats in Britain are protected and must not be killed or their roost damaged. EBLVs may only be transmitted by the bite of an infected bat. There is therefore no risk to humans if bats are not approached or handled by them. Anyone who works with bats in the UK should have pre-exposure rabies vaccinations.

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.

Anyone finding a sick or ailing bat should not approach or handle it but seek advice from the Bat Conservation Trust Bat Helpline on 0845 1300 228.

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