The HPA has warned anglers not to handle any bats that they might accidentally hook while fly fishing, as there is a small risk of catching a rabies-like virus from these animals.
A small proportion of Daubenton’s bats, the species most frequently seen skimming the surface of water in search of insects, carry European Bat Lyssavirus 2 (EBLV2), which can cause rabies in those bitten, scratched, or exposed to infected saliva.
Dr Hilary Kirkbride, consultant epidemiologist at the HPA, said: “Although it is very rare for bats to pass this virus on to humans, fly fishermen should never handle these animals directly.
“If a bat is accidentally hooked while fishing, the angler should try to land the bat on the riverbank, where it may free itself from the line. If handling the bat cannot be avoided, then appropriate thick protective gloves should be worn at all times.
“Anyone who is bitten, scratched or exposed to the saliva or nervous tissue of an infected bat should clean the wound as soon as possible with soap and water and seek medical advice immediately. A vaccine is available, which, if taken soon after contact with an infected animal, is highly effective in preventing rabies and will pose no long-term risk to health.”