First British rabies case in 100 years confirmed

 

A Scottish artist and conservationist was confirmed this evening to be the first person to contract a deadly strain of rabies within Britain in 100 years.

In a statement, the National Health Service (NHS) said the man was in "critical but stable" at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee with European Bat Lyssavirus (EBL), for which there is no known cure.

It did not give his name, but British news media identified him as Mr David McRae (56) from Guthrie, northeast of Dundee, who was licensed to handle bats by Scottish Natural Heritage, a wildlife agency.

"Very regrettably, laboratory tests have now confirmed our initial clinical diagnosis," said Drew Walker, director of public health for NHS Tayside. "Our thoughts at this time are very much with this man and his family.

To the general public, Walker stressed that only people who have been bitten or scratched by bats are in danger of EBL.

EBL is common in northern Europe, but virtually unknown in Britain. Experts suspected that McRae was infected by a bat that might have been blown over the North Sea from the European mainland.

Mr McRae's case is the first of indigenous rabies since 1902. Three other people, bitten in mainland Europe, have been diagnosed in Britain since 1977 as having the disease, officials said.