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Rabid bat found in Surrey

A BAT found injured in Surrey has tested positive for a strain of rabies, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said late last week.

The Daubenton’s bat was found in Bushey Park in Surrey last August and was being nursed back to health when vets noticed unusual behaviour and conducted rabies tests as a precaution. The tests showed it had European bat lyssavirus 2 (EBLV-2), a strain of bat rabies. The bat was destroyed on May 2 and tests have now revealed that the bat was suffering from rabies.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) warned members of the public not to approach bats whether dead or alive, but to contact the Bat Conservation Trust. A spokesman asked anyone who believed their pets had come into contact with the rabid bat to contact the authorities.

The virus can only be transmitted by a bite, and the Health Protection Agency advised anyone who is bitten to wash the wound with soap and water and seek medical attention.

A point not picked up on by the national media was the length of time it took the bat to develop rabies, from August until (presumably) late April – a period of eight months. It is possible that the bat was incubating the disease during this time, but DEFRA have remained silent on this point.
Experts have stressed that EBL is extremely rare in British bats and is more widespread elsewhere in northern Europe. In the 26 years prior to Mr McRae’s death years only 11 Britons have died from rabies but all as a result of bites from animals overseas.

The first case of a rabid bat reported by the national media concerned a Daubenton’s, was found in Newhaven, Sussex in 1996, where it had been observed “behaving oddly” in a pub car park.

The bat’s discovery occurred in the same week that Parliament was debating the possible relaxation of quarantine laws under a motion put forward by the late animal welfare conscious Labour MP Tony Banks (later Lord Stratford), but opposed by the then Conservative Government.

Mr Banks publicly stated that it was “very suspicious that an allegedly rabid bat was found in the same week that Parliament was debating the relaxation of quarantine laws.”