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Sunday, 24 November, 2002, 21:59 GMT
Man dies from rabies after bat bite
David McRae
David McRae worked with bats as a conservationist
A man has died after contracting Britain's first case of rabies for 100 years, hospital bosses have confirmed.

David McRae, a 56-year-old conservationist from Guthrie, Angus, Scotland, failed to recover from European Bat Lyssavirus (EBL), a type of rabies found in several northern European countries.

Mr McRae, who was licensed to handle bats, was bitten by one of the creatures on at least one occasion.

Ninewells entrance
Mr McRae died in Ninewells Hospital

His licence was issued by wildlife agency Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), for whom he had carried out research.

A SNH spokesman said Mr McRae's death was a "bleak day" for everyone involved in conservation in Scotland.

He added: "Everyone at Scottish Natural Heritage is completely devastated by this terrible news."

The Oldham-born wildlife artist moved to Angus three years ago and has spent much of his time painting and working with bats.

Doctors announced on Tuesday that Mr McRae was being treated in an isolation unit at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.

He was bitten by a species known as Daubenton's Bat some weeks ago.

There is no cure for the disease.

Close contact

Tayside NHS Trust has confirmed clinical staff closely involved in treatment of the patient will be offered advice and vaccination where appropriate.

Rabies is a serious infection of the nervous system that is caused by a virus which is usually transmitted by a bite from an infected animal.

Mr McRae had prolonged close contact with bats over many years and had been bitten on at least one occasion.

He had also carried out work for SNH under contract.

In Europe, where the EBL strain is common, there have only been three cases of humans catching rabies since 1977.

This is the first case of indigenous rabies in Britain since 1902.

NHS Tayside director of public health, Drew Walker, said his deepest sympathies were with Mr McRae's family.

He repeated advice that only members of the general public who handle bats or who have been bitten or scratched by them are at risk of infection.

A helpline has also been set up to offer reassurance and advice.

The number is 0800 783 5066.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Kate Fawcett
"It's understood he refused an offer of innoculation"
See also:

24 Nov 02 | Scotland
20 Nov 02 | England
19 Nov 02 | Scotland
19 Nov 02 | Scotland
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