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Bat rabies: a lurking danger

27 June 2019
Volume 28 · Issue 12

Rabies caused by lyssavirus is a fatal condition affecting the nervous system. The virus resides in the saliva of infected animals and is transmitted most commonly through a bite or contact between bodily fluids and broken human skin. Infected canines such as dogs are usually associated with the transmission of infection in endemic regions worldwide (World Health Organization (WHO), 2017).

It is estimated that almost 59 000 deaths a year occur worldwide due to rabies (WHO, 2017), mainly in Africa and South East Asia. With immigration and tourism, it is not unrealistic to expect that rabies acquired from endemic regions will be seen occasionally in the UK. This is reflected in the fact that Public Health England (PHE) treats around 2000 people every year with post-exposure treatment, 88% being exposed to an animal bite overseas and about 12% bitten by bats in UK. The PHE stated that the last death from rabies contracted from a bat in the UK was in 2002 (Shaw, 2018).

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