Minimal risk for catching rabies from a bat in Finland


<p>Bats can infect people with rabies. However, rabies infections in humans are extremely rarely caused by bats. In Finland, the risk of catching bat rabies is very low, particularly if there is no contact with bats at work or leisure.</p>

Finland has been an officially rabies-free country since 1991, as rabies is not present in land mammals. The primary sources of a rabies infection are dogs and cats among domestic animals, and foxes and raccoon dogs among wild animals. Bats are nevertheless considered to be the actual reservoirs of the rabies virus. In fact, most types of rabies have only been detected in bats.

Bat rabies endemic in Finland
The Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira monitors the occurrence of bat rabies in Finland, for example among bats that are found dead or unable to survive.

Saliva and blood samples were collected from live bats in a research project conducted in 2010–2011. Samples of seven bat species were analysed. Antibodies were detected in a few individual Daubenton's bats in the Turku region, but no actual viruses found. This indicates that bat rabies appears to be endemic in Finland.

All bat species are protected in this country. Sample collection was therefore authorised by the national Animal Experiment Board, and bats handled by permission of the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment.

Bat rabies suspected in Finland as early as in 1985
Bat rabies was suspected to be present in Finland as early as in 1985, when a Swiss bat researcher died of rabies encephalitis caused by European bat lyssavirus type 2 (EBLV-2). The EBLV-2 virus was not detected in Finland until 2009, when it was discovered in a Daubenton's bat found in Kakskerta in Turku. As this bat had the same type 2 as the researcher, it is probable that the bat researcher caught the infection in Finland.

The prevailing types of bat rabies in Europe include the European bat lyssavirus types EBLV-1 and EBLV-2. In Central Europe, type EBLV-1 is more common than type EBLV-2.

Rabies, a viral disease that causes encephalitis in mammals, is transmitted by a bite from an infected animal.
Read more about rabies

The research results were published in an article by Nokireki, T., Huovilainen, A., Lilley, T., Kyheröinen, E., Ek-Kommonen, C., Sihvonen, L., Jakava-Viljanen, M.
BMC Veterinary Research 2013: Vol. 9, No. 174.
Bat rabies surveillance in Finland

For further information, please contact:
Tiina Nokireki, Senior Researcher, DVM,
Veterinary Virology Research Unit, tel. +358 (0)50 413 1687

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