Rabies death halts bat work

Nature conservation authorities suspended all licences to work with bats in Scotland yesterday after the death of the first person to catch rabies in Britain for 100 years.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) said it had ordered a detailed risk assessment after David McRae, an artist and volunteer worker from Angus, caught European bat lyssavirus, a rare strain of rabies.

It is thought the 56-year-old, who died on Sunday night just days after being admitted to Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, was among a number of volunteer workers bitten by bats on a field trip in August. However, Mr McRae was the only victim not to have an anti- rabies inoculation and no other workers have been taken ill.

George Anderson, an SNH spokesman, said: "All but a handful of licences have been suspended until we know what the risks are." He ruled out a blanket cull of bats, saying: "Bats don't bite anything bigger than a moth unless they are provoked severely."