A HEALTH warning has been issued after the life-threatening rabies virus was detected in a dead bat found in Dorset.

It is the first time the EBLV-1 strain has been discovered in the UK and can lead to rabies in humans.

Now Public Health England(PHE) has urged anyone who has come into contact with the creatures to come forward.

It said: “Any person exposed to any type of bat in the UK should receive a prompt risk assessment and may require post-exposure treatment with rabies vaccine.

“Bat bites in the UK are felt rather than seen and may not bleed to leave an obvious mark on the skin. Infected bats may not show signs of illness therefore all bats should be considered a risk of rabies.”

A spokeswoman for PHE confirmed the bat had been found in Dorset but said she is unable to give an exact location.

The organisation went on to stress that the risk to humans is low.

In a statement it said: “The risk of catching rabies from bats in the UK is very low, with the last human case of rabies contracted from bats in 2002.

“Rabies has not been found in pipistrelles – the type of bat most commonly found in UK homes. As many people will not know what type of bat they’ve been in contact with, we provide rabies vaccine to people who have been bitten by any type of bat in the UK as a precautionary measure.

“PHE treats around 150 people every year who have been bitten by a bat in England.”

The presence of the EBLV (European Bat Lyssavirus Types 1 and 2) in bats in the UK does not affect its rabies-free health status under international guidelines.

More than 15,000 bats have been tested since 1986 and only 21 have previously been found to be infected - all were Daubenton’s bats with EBLV-2.

It is normally transmitted by means of a bite or scratch from an infected bat.

The risk of the disease being passed from a bat to a human or other mammal is very low because the disease is present at such low levels in Great Britain and most people do not have any contact with bats.

As a precaution anyone who regularly handles bats in the UK is advised to receive a course of rabies vaccine.

PHE’s advice is that anyone bitten or scratched by a bat should clean the wound immediately and seek medical advice promptly, as they may require a course of rabies vaccine even if they have already had vaccine previously.

Bats are a protected species under European legislation. It is an offence to possess a bat or disturb a bat.

Anyone finding a dead bat or a bat in distress should not approach or handle it but seek advice from the Bat Conservation Trust Helpline on 0345 1300 228.