Britain's disease-free status remains intact

Bat rabies-type illness does not threaten British ground-dwelling animals

source: Steve Connor
Independent November 21 2002 p6

Terrestrial mammals such as dogs and foxes are not affected by the same type of rabies as the type that affects bats, European bat lyssavirus (EBL), also called 'bat rabies'. The diseases are similar. EBL is common among the bat population of northern Europe, and can be passed on to other animals such as humans, though this is rare. There have been three deaths of humans from EBL in Europe since 1977. Each of the three people has had contact with bats, and had not been given immediate treatment after becoming infected.

The British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) argues that Britain is still rabies-free, since EBL cannot be transmitted between terrestrial mammals. The terrestrial form of rabies is not found in Britain, and has almost been eradicated in neighbouring European countries after a campaign to vaccinate foxes, using bait. Some 200 bats are tested annually by government scientists, with two cases detected over 15 years. It is rare for humans to be infected with EBL by bats. The public should not handle bats that appear ill, and should ask for help from a bat conservation organization. EBL cannot be transmitted through bat droppings. Bats are classed as a protected species in the UK.