Bats and Rabies in the United KingdomKeith
Bats in the UK and Rabies, some info for you.
A small number in the UK have been found to carry a rabies like virus. There are two known strains: EBLV1 and EBLV2.
Here in the UK, 12 have been found with the EBLV2 live virus: nine in England, two in Scotland and one in Wales. All were Daubenton’s species.
Three have tested positive for EBLV1 antibodies: a serotine in the south of England and two Natterer’s bats in Scotland.
The Animal & Plant Health Agency has tested over 12,500 UK bats since 1986 for EBLV through its passive surveillance programme and just 11 bats have been found with the live virus.
Further active surveillance research by the Department of the Environment found just one bat, which tested positive for the live EBLV2 virus, taking the total to 12 bats (all Daubenton’s bats).
The presence of EBLV in bats in the UK does not affect the UK’s rabies free status.
What do I do if I find a dead bat?
If you find a dead one ring the BCT Helpline on 0345 1300 228. They can then send a postage-paid packet so that you can send the dead bat to the Animal & Plant Health Agency to check for the rabies virus.
Can people catch rabies from bats?
The risk of catching the virus from a bat in the UK is extremely small, for several reasons:
Passive surveillance for rabies in the UK since 1986 has found only 11 bats, of over 12,000 tested, with the live virus (the 12th bat identified with the live virus was through active surveillance work). All have been Daubenton’s bats, which tend not to roost in buildings.
We have 17 breeding species in the UK, the live EBLV2 virus has never been found in any other bat species in the UK.
Human contact with bats is very rare, even when they share the same buildings.
EBLV is transmitted by the bite of an infectious bat or by its saliva entering a wound or mucous membrane. There is therefore no risk to people if you do not approach or handle one. This means that there is no need to be concerned if you have bats roosting in your property or flying in your garden.
These creatures are not aggressive, although like any wild animal, they may bite to defend themselves if handled. One that appears to be baring its teeth is actually ‘scanning’ you with its unique method of echolocation – building up a picture of its environment by using a type of sonar, which is mostly inaudible to humans.
There is an effective treatment available from your GP for those exposed to EBLV; this must be administered as soon as possible after exposure.
In 2002 a batworker from Scotland died from EBLV, which is why BCT takes a precautionary approach and advises that anyone who is bitten to obtain advice from his/her GP.