Health alert issued after dead bat found to be carrying rabies virus
A HEALTH alert has been issued after a rabid bat was found in Dorset.
Public Health England (PHE) has urged GPS to consider rabies injections for any patients exposed to bats, following the case.
Officials said the European Bat Lyssavirus 1 was detected in a dead serotine bat found in Dorset, and that it was the first time this particular virus has ever been confirmed in the UK. The bat rabies virus is “related to the classical rabies virus and can lead to clinical rabies in humans”. It went on to advise that “any person exposed to any type of bat in the UK should receive a prompt risk assessment and may require postexposure treatment”.
Exposure means a bite, scratch or contact with bat saliva. Every year, around 150 people in England receive NHS treatment for bat bites.
PHE said the “risk of catching rabies from a bat is very low”. But the statement added that in 2002 a man died from rabies acquired in the UK from a bat. He had been infected with the EBLV-2 virus, which has previously been detected in Daubenton’s bats in the UK.
Although the EBLV-1 virus has never before been detected in the UK, “two cases of human rabies caused by EBLV-1 have been reported elsewhere in Europe”, the note added.
The notice revealed by Pulse magazine concludes: “Bat bites in the UK are felt rather than seen and may not bleed or leave an obvious mark. Infected bats may not show signs of illness, and therefore all bats (whatever species) should be considered a potential risk.”
Officials said PHE’S rabies and immunoglobulin service had received reports of patients who have been bitten by bats in the UK and not received appropriate post-exposure treatment.
“Therefore it is important for health professionals to be aware of the risks of rabies following contact with any bat.”
A PHE spokesman said: “The risk of catching rabies from bats in the UK is very low, with the last human case of rabies contracted from bats in 2002.”
Health officials said the presence of bat rabies in a small number of bats
‘Any person exposed to any type of bat should receive a prompt risk assessment and may require treatment’
does not affect the UK’S rabies-free health status under international guidelines. More than 15,000 bats have been tested since 1986 and only 21 have been found to be infected – all were Daubenton’s bats.
Officials said anyone who regularly handles bats is advised to receive a course of rabies vaccine. Anyone bitten or scratched by a bat should clean the wound immediately and seek medical advice, as they may require a vaccine even if they have previously had one.