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Bat Rabies, Public Health and European Bat Conservation


P. A. Racey. Chapel Cottage, Prazegooth lane, Cadgwith, Helston, Cornwall TR12 7LA, UK. Tel.: +44 (0) 1326 291255; E-mail:


Most records of European bat lyssaviruses (EBLVs) are confined to three species – the serotine bat for EBLV1 (900 records) and Daubenton’s bat and the pond bat for EBLV2 (25 records). High levels of seroprevalence, which may vary from year to year, are also recorded. All bat vectors of EBLVs are synanthropic, some exclusively so. Despite this, there have been only five cases of human rabies resulting from EBLV infection in the 590 million people of greater Europe during the last 35 years. These have triggered major programmes of surveillance in many European countries. The emphasis on active versus passive surveillance and the intensity with which they have been carried out has varied from country to country. Both involve cooperation between bat researchers, virologists and public health officials and the latter, in particular, engages amateur bat workers and members of the public. Bat NGOs throughout Europe have worked to persuade the public not to handle bats or to do so only with gloved hands and, in the case of bat workers, to receive pre-exposure immunization. They have also countered negative media coverage of bat rabies. Householders with bat roosts in their dwellings have in general been persuaded to retain their bats. Attempts have been made to persuade all European countries to establish comparable EBLV surveillance programmes. In the last 25 years, virologists, public health officials, bat biologists and conservationists, both amateur and professional have worked closely and collaboratively for the protection of the public and the conservation of bats, with little polarization of views.