WHO Rabies - Bulletin - Europe
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Facts and figures

Bat rabies in Europe

From 1977 to 2014, a total of 1085 cases of bat rabies were detected in Europe and reported to the WHO Collaborating Centre for Rabies Surveillance and Research at the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute, Germany. The majority of positive bats originated from Denmark, followed by the Netherlands, Germany and Poland counting for more than 90 percent of all positive bats recorded for this time period. Bat rabies was also reported from France, Spain, Switzerland, Great Britain, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. Due to sampling bias it is in all probability that bat rabies occurs all over Europe. European bat lyssavirus type 1 (EBLV-1) has a specific association with the Serotine bat (Eptesicus serotinus, in Spain E. isabellinus) while EBLV-2 is associated with the species of Myotis bats (M. daubentonii and M. dascyneme) and has been isolated from bats in the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany and Finland. On the European side of the Caucasus Mountains a Common bent-winged bat (Miniopterus schreibersii) tested rabies positive and the isolated lyssavirus was named West Caucasian Bat Lyssavirus (WCBV). Recently, Bokeloh bat lyssavirus (BBLV), a novel virus was isolated from a Natterer’s bat (Myotis nattereri) from Germany and France. Also, viral RNA of a new tentative lyssavirus, Lleida bat lyssavirus (LLEBV), was detected in a bent-winged bat (Miniopterus schreibersii) in Spain.

Bat rabies cases reported in Europe 1977-2014

Spill-Over from bat rabies in Europe

The transmission of bat rabies to terrestrial mammals („spillover“) is a rare incident. In 1998 and in 2002 EBLV-1-induced rabies was detected in sheep in Denmark. The first spill over to wildlife species was confirmed in 2001 when in Germany a stone marten tested EBLV-1 positive. France also reported EBLV-1 infections in two cats in 2003 and 2007, respectively.

So far, a spill-over of EBLV-2 into animals has not been reported.


Human cases

Even though the risk of possible exposure to bat lyssaviruses is low, sporadic human rabies cases following a bat bite have been described. In 1977 the first confirmed case of EBLV-1 associated with a bat bite in Europe was reported in the Ukraine. A further case of a fatal EBLV-1 infection in humans occurred in 1985 in Russia. A Swiss biologist who had multiple bat bites died in Finland in 1985. Rabies as a diagnosis was confirmed by laboratory and EBLV-2 was isolated for the first time. The second confirmed case of an EBLV-2 infection following exposure to bats was a 56-year-old bat conservationist from Angus, Scotland who died in November 2002. A further case of bat associated rabies was reported in the Ukraine, although not confirmed by laboratory tests.


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