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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rabies-risks-from-bat-bites/information-for-individuals-who-have-been-bitten-by-a-bat
This information is only intended for people who have been bitten by a bat in the UK or overseas. Bats, like any wild animal can carry a number of different viruses and bacteria, some of which can cause illness in people. One of these diseases is bat rabies which can be passed on to humans through a bat bite, scratch or contact with the bat’s saliva.
1. About bat rabies
Bat rabies (also known as bat lyssavirus) can be found in many countries around the world, including the UK, and, although rarely contracted from bats, can be fatal in humans once symptoms appear. However, prompt treatment with rabies vaccine after an exposure is effective at preventing the disease.
2. The risk of catching rabies
The risk of catching rabies from a bat in the UK is very low, but infected bats may not show signs of illness, and therefore all bats should be considered a potential risk of rabies.
3. Those who need medical advice
You should contact your doctor straight away if you have been bitten or scratched by a bat. Bat bites are often felt and not seen, and may not bleed or leave an obvious mark on the skin.
After contact with a bat, it is important to:
- wash the area of any bite or scratch with soap and water immediately
- contact a health professional promptly so that they can assess the exposure and arrange post-exposure treatment. Even if you have had rabies vaccine before, it is still important to seek medical advice
Post-exposure treatment involves a course of rabies vaccine.
4. Specialist advice for health professionals
Health professionals can access specialist advice, support on completing the rabies risk assessment and provision of free rabies vaccine for post-exposure treatment by contacting the relevant service:
PHE’s Rabies and Immunoglobulin Service on 0208 327 6204; or the local health protection team.
4.2 Northern Ireland
Public Health Agency duty room on 030 0555 0119. Rabies vaccine is available from the Royal Victoria Hospital Pharmacy Department, Belfast (028 9024 0503).
The local on-call infectious diseases consultant:
Aberdeen - Royal Infirmary (0345 456 6000)
Ayrshire - Crosshouse Hospital (01563 521 133)
Dumfries and Galloway - Royal Infirmary (01387 246 246)
Dundee - Ninewells Hospital (01382 680 111)
Edinburgh - Western General Hospital (030 0555 0119)
Fife - Victoria Hospital (01592 643 355)
Glasgow - Queen Elizabeth Hospital (0141 201 1100)
Inverness - Raigmore Hospital (01463 704 000)
Lanarkshire - Monklands Hospital (01236 748 748)
Duty Virologist, University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff (029 20 742 094 or 029 20 747 747); or Public Health Wales Health Protection Team on 0300 003 0032 (contact via the local ambulance control out of hours)
5. Bat contact and rabies risks leaflet
More information about bat contacts and rabies can be found on the bat contact and rabies risks leaflet produced by PHE (please try an alternative browser if you have difficulty opening this in older versions of internet explorer). The leaflet also contains useful information for your health care professional. Please print off a copy and take it with you to your doctor.
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