Suspected Case of Bat Rabies in Staines

Joint press release by the Health Protection Agency and DEFRA:

Initial tests carried out on a juvenile female Daubenton's bat submitted to the Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Weybridge, Surrey, have shown positive results for a strain of rabies. Confirmatory tests are in progress.

The bat was found by a member of the public in an alley off Thames Street, Staines, Surrey. The bat was grounded and was moved under cover where it remained for several days between September 17 - 21. It was then taken into the care of experienced bat conservation group volunteers. The bat died on September 23 and was sent to the Veterinary Laboratories Agency for testing. Three individuals, who are known to have cared for and handled the bat, took precautions and wore gloves. They are also receiving appropriate medical treatment.

Investigations into this case are ongoing.   

Debby Reynolds, Defra's chief veterinary officer, said: This is a good example of departments and agencies working together with the Bat Conservation Trust and English Nature, acting quickly to deal with the small risk to human and animal health.

Confirmatory tests being carried out on the bat have proven positive, for the presence of European Bat Lyssavirus (EBLV), a strain of rabies virus common in bats across Northern Europe. Preliminary indications are that the strain is European Bat Lyssavirus type-2 (EBLV-2) and that it is closely related to the other EBLV-2 viruses isolated previously in Great Britain.

EBLVs are closely related to classical rabies virus. They have been known to infect not only the primary hosts (insectivorous bats) but on very rare occasions other animal hosts and people. In the United Kingdom there have been two previous cases in bats in Daubenton's bats (Myotis daubentonii). The first was found in Newhaven, Sussex during 1996 and the second in Lancashire in 2002. Both tested positive for EBLV type virus. In addition, a person in Scotland, thought to have been bitten by a bat about six months previously, died in November, 2002 from the same strain of rabies-like virus. In Europe, between 1977 and 2000, a total of 630 EBLV cases in bats have been confirmed, mainly in Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany.

Over the last 18 years, the Veterinary Laboratories Agency has tested over 200 bats a year through a passive surveillance program. This has returned negative results (apart from the Sussex and Lancashire cases). In 2003 various government agencies and departments began investigations into the extent of EBLVs in bats in England and Scotland. This work is ongoing.

On rare occasions there has been transmission of EBLV type 1 to terrestrial mammals. On two occasions sheep have been infected and in 2002 EBLV was detected in a stone marten in Germany. Since 1977 there have been four human deaths in Europe attributed to EBLV infections, all in cases where the humans had been in close contact with bats. Although such human cases are very rare, the risk posed to humans from an EBLV infected bat still exists

All 16 UK bat species are protected and must not be killed or their roosts damaged. EBLVs may only be transmitted by the bite of an infected bat. There is therefore no risk to human beings if bats are not approached or handled.

Defra, the Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency work closely with the Bat Conservation Trust and English Nature on bat issues. Advice has been agreed on the need for routine rabies vaccination for those who regularly handle bats and on procedures for the safe handling of bats.

Further information is available at

Source: Health Protection Agency