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Rabies

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Rabies is a fatal viral disease of the nervous system which can affect all mammals including humans.

Background

The disease is usually spread by saliva from the bite of an infected animal. Clinical signs include paralysis and aggression leading to a painful death.

Classical rabies was eradicated from the UK in 1922. The Pet Travel Scheme and quarantine help protect against infected animals entering the UK.  Because of the existence of the disease elsewhere there is concern about rabies being reintroduced by illegally imported mammals. Some European bats carry rabies related viruses.

Further information on the level of rabies in other countries around the world is available on the World Health Organisation website (external link). Information on rabies in Europe can be found on the Rabies Bulletin Europe website (external link).

Further information on rabies and associated control measures can be found in the England & Wales Rabies Disease Control Strategy 2011.

Rabies in Bats - European Bat Lyssaviruses (EBLV)

Rabies affects bats as well as terrestrial mammals. A strain of rabies called European Bat Lyssavirus (EBLV 2) has been found in Daubenton's bats in the UK on 8 occasions.  There was a fatal human case of rabies in Scotland in December 2002 as a result of handling bats.

British bats are most active during the summer. Bats will generally avoid contact with humans but occasionally may enter property or get caught by a cat. If you find a bat, dead or alive, do not touch it. If it appears to be sick or in difficulty, or has died, call the Bat Conservation Trust helpline on 0845 130 0228 and ask for advice.

Pre exposure vaccination is highly recommended for those handling bats. Immediate advice should be sought on precautionary administration of rabies vaccine for anyone bitten or scratched by a bat.