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TWO Midlanders have been tested for rabies - after being bitten by an infected bat.

The victims, who live in Birmingham and Shropshire, have received post-exposure treatment in a bid to stop them developing the killer disease.

Last night, neither has been named by the authorities, who said only that both will be monitored over the coming days.

It is only the fifth time that rabies has been confirmed in bats in Britain.

The first case was discovered in the Sussex town of Newhaven in 1996, and was followed by outbreaks in Lancashire in 2002 and 2003. There was another attack in Surrey in 2004.

Experts from Defra said a dying Daubenton bat was discovered in the Stokesay area of Shropshire last Sunday by a member of the public, who took it to an animal hospital for treatment.

The female bat later died and was sent to a Surrey laboratory where scientists confirmed the presence of European Bat Lyssavirus (EBLV) - a rare strain of bat rabies.

It was unclear last night how the Midland victims came to be bitten.

Defra has stressed that the risk to human health is minimal if treatment is administered after an attack.

But a bat worker died in Scotland in 2002 after contracting rabies. He had been bitten six months before his death in November that year from an EBLV-2 infection.

Since 1977 there have been four human deaths in Europe attributed to the rare strain, all in cases where the victims had been in close contact with bats.

Although such cases are uncommon, the risk posed to humans from an EBLV-infected bat still exists.

A total of 729 cases of bat rabies have been confirmed and reported to the World Health Organization across Europe in the last 30 years.

The majority originated in Denmark, followed by the Netherlands, Germany and Poland.

A spokesman for the Health Protection Agency said: "Everyone licensed to handle bats, or who regularly handles bats in Great Britain has to ensure that they have up-to-date rabies vaccination, and should always wear protective gloves.

"If anyone is bitten by a bat, the wound should be immediately and thoroughly cleaned with soap and water.

"Additional cleansing of the wound site with an alcohol base or other disinfectant is also recommended, and immediate medical advice must be sought."

Anyone finding a sick bat should not approach or handle it, but instead seek advice from the Bat Conservation Trust Helpline on 0845 130 0228.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Aug 19, 2007
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