Bats are fascinating animals. With about 980 bat species
throughout the world they count for a quarter of all
mammal species. Many European bat species are endangered
according to the Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN),
and are therefore protected by regulations of Council
Directive 92/43/EEC of the European Union on the
conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and
flora, by the Agreement on the Conservation of Bats in
Europe, EUROBATS, 1991 or by national legislation.
Like in all animals, infectious diseases can occur in
bats. Rabies is a virus disease which can also be
transmitted by the bite of a rabid bat. It is important
to note that bats are reservoirs and/or vectors for most
lyssaviruses characterized so far (see
Bat rabies in Europe is caused by different lyssaviruses,
e.g. the European Bat Lyssavirus 1 and 2 (EBLV-1and 2).
In the Caucasus area a lyssavirus species, West
Caucasian Bat Lyssavirus (WCBV) was isolated. Recently,
Bokeloh bat lyssavirus (BBLV) was discovered in Germany
and France. Additionally, viral RNA of a tentative
species named Lleida bat lyssavirus (LLBV) was
identified in a bat from Spain.
Most bats roost or hibernate in buildings, trees or sub
terrestrial rooms such as caves, cellars or mines.
Within buildings, they prefer attics, planking or areas
behind window shutters. There is no reason to evict bat
colonies as there is little chance of contact with
Bats are not aggressive, although, like any wild animal,
they may bite to defend themselves if handled. Rabies
can be transmitted to humans by the bite of a bat.
Approved rabies vaccination can prevent the disease. Bat
handlers are recommended to get preventive vaccination.
Post-exposure prophylaxis should be considered when
contact between a human and a bat has occurred unless
the exposed person can rule out a bite or scratch, or
exposure to a mucous membrane.