Health alert is­sued af­ter dead bat found to be car­ry­ing ra­bies virus

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Laura Don­nelly

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.

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