12 March 2010
Rabies in Swedish bats
Bats can get infected about a form of rabies (Lyssa virus), which rarely also can be transferred to other mammals, including Homo sapiens. Out of four fatal cases in Europe during the last few decades two have been bat researchers, so there is a small risk of handling wild bats in Europe. However, Sweden has thus far been without any reported cases of rabid bats. But new samples taken during 2009 in Skåne found antibodies against bat rabies in eight Daubenton's bats (Myotis daubentoni), according to a press release yesterday. These bats are non-migratory (at least we think so), and therefore they should have been in contact with actually sick bats at some stage. Hence, Sweden is no longer a rabies-free territory. But this is a fully expected result considering that rabies is found in our neighboring countries Denmark and Finland, and is common in Germany and Poland. Since many bats migrate to continental Europe it would have been strange if infected bats never turned up in Sweden. This new finding does not change any of the official recommendations for us working with bats, which include being vaccinated and wearing a glove when handling (such as ringing) bats. More information can be found at www.naturvardsverket.se/fladdermus .