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Britain on Rabies Watch After Infected Bat Found

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British agricultural authorities issued a warning to the public on Tuesday after a bat that eluded the island nation’s strict controls tested positive for a strain that can infect humans.

Britain’s farm ministry said the bat was found by a member of the public in an alley in Staines in southeast England last month and has been undergoing tests ever since.The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) called on the public to be vigilant and seek medical advice if bitten.”The wound should be immediately thoroughly cleaned with soap and water. Additional cleansing of the wound site with an alcohol base or other disinfectant is also recommended and immediate medical advice must be sought,” it said in a statement.DEFRA said the bat died on September 23 before being sent to Veterinary Laboratories Agency for closer examination.”Initial tests carried out…have shown positive results for a strain of rabies,” the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said in a statement.DEFRA said the animal tested positive for European Bat Lyssavirus (EBLV), a strain of rabies virus common in bats across Northern Europe.It added that this type of affliction is closely related to the classical rabies virus but that further tests are being carried out to confirm the disease.Rabies is a serious infection of the nervous system and is usually transmitted to humans and animals by a bite from an infected animal. Once clinical rabies develops, it is almost always fatal.DEFRA said that three individuals, who are known to have cared for and handled the bat, took precautions and wore gloves, and are receiving appropriate medical treatment.The EBLV strain of rabies has been detected in bats on only two occassions in Britain, in 1996 and 2002.In addition, a person in Scotland, though to have been bitten by a bat about six months previously, died in November 2002 from the same strain of rabies-like virus.The last person to die from the disease before that was in 1902.”Although such human cases are very rare, the risk posed to humans from an EBLV infected bat still exists,” DEFRA said.In Europe, a total of 630 EBLV cases were confirmed between 1977 and 2000, mainly in Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany.Britain operates a strict quarantine system regarding importation of animals to prevent the spread of rabies and other diseases.(Source: Reuters, Sept 2004)

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Posted On: 1 October, 2004
Modified On: 4 December, 2013

Created by: myVMC