3rd July 2009
European Bat Lyssavirus (EBLV) type 2 has, for the first time, been detected in a single, live Daubenton's bat in Perthshire during an active surveillance programme run by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
We are already aware that there is a very small percentage of this rabies-type virus in UK bats, so the presence of EBLV type 2 in the UK comes as no surprise. The study confirms how scarce infectious bats are.
To put the figures in context, under SNH's active surveillance scheme, from 2005-2008 more than 900 bats were captured and tested and the virus was detected in only one of these bat. There has also been a significant downward trend of Daubenton's bats tested showing antibodies to EBLV - around 15%, 8%, 5% and 3% (respectively).
The SNH study also found two Natterer's bats with antibodies to EBLV-type 1; one in 2007 and one in 2008. These are the first reports of exposure of Natterer's bats to EBLV type 1 in Britain.
In light of this report, our advice to the general public remains the same. Daubenton's and Natterer's bats rarely roost in houses so the risk to homeowners is low. There is no risk to a homeowner unless handling a bat.
Bats are still under threat and need our help and protection. There are excellent systems in place in the UK if a sick or injured bat is found. If you find a bat you should not handle it but seek advice from the Bat Conservation Trust's Helpline on 0845 1300 228.
Footnote The SNH programme was designed to investigate two different areas; rabies virus in bat saliva; and antibodies to rabies in the bat's blood. The presence of these antibodies in a bat's blood demonstrates that the bat has been in contact with rabies or a very similar virus and has made antibodies against the disease. It does not, however, imply that the bat is infectious. Only bats with live virus in their saliva can pass on the disease
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