WHO Rabies - Bulletin - Europe
Rabies Information System of the
WHO Collaboration Centre for Rabies Surveillance and Research
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General information

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 Classification). 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 humans.

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.


 Leaflet Bat Rabies


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