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Saturday, 28 September, 2002, 19:05 GMT 20:05 UK
Rabid bat bites woman
A bat
Rabies can be caused by close contact with bats
A woman has been bitten by a bat which has tested positive for a strain of rabies that can affect humans.

The volunteer bat warden has been vaccinated against the disease after she was bitten on the hand while caring for the animal on 11 September in north Lancashire.


We have identified five other people involved in the handling of the bat and are beginning post exposure treatment

Nick Gent
Department of Health

Initial tests on a Daubenton's bat have proved positive for a strain of rabies not seen in Britain since 1996, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has confirmed.

But experts are waiting for the results of further tests.

Five other people who came into contact with the animal have also received medical treatment.

The strain of rabies, thought to be the most likely virus, is known as EBL and has killed three people in Europe since 1977.

EBL - the European Bat Lyssavirus - is a strain common in bats across northern Europe.

All pet animals in the house have been put into isolation.

Outpatient treatment

Nick Gent, a consultant with the department of health, said the woman was fit and well.

"She was bitten and subsequently was examined by infectious disease specialists who say she does not appear to be suffering from any symptoms of rabies."

He said: "She had a short stay in hospital and is now being treated as an outpatient.

"We have identified five other people who had any involvement in the handling of the bat and are beginning post-exposure treatment. Probably this is over the top."

Dr Frank Atherton, director of public health in Morecambe Bay, said: "There is no threat to the general public from what has happened in north Lancashire."

He described the incident as a "one-off".

Rare cases

Sick and dead bats, are being sent by conservationists to veterinary authorities for analysis.

It is hoped tests will confirm whether or not any of the bats are carrying the rabies strain by early next week.

Defra said anyone who finds a sick or ailing bat should not approach or handle it but should seek advice from a local bat conservation group.

If this case is confirmed it will be the second known case of this strain of rabies being found in Britain.

In June 1996 a pregnant woman Sheila Wright and another woman, were bitten on the hand by a bat carrying the strain.

There have been only two documented cases of human beings dying after contracting this strain, with the last being in Finland in 1985.


Click here to go to Lancashire
See also:

24 Oct 02 | Science/Nature
05 Apr 00 | Americas
07 Mar 00 | Health
21 May 99 | Health
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