A man is critically ill with what is thought to be a rare form of rabies contracted while he was handling a wild bat. If tests are positive, the patient, from Angus, central Scotland, will be the first person in a century to have caught rabies in Britain.
He was admitted to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee with mild neurological symptoms, which developed into a progressive neurological disorder consistent with rabies, said a hospital spokesman.
It was believed the man was infected by the European bat lyssavirus (EBL) – an unusual type of rabies known to exist in several north European countries. EBL causes paralysis from the feet upwards, and is usually fatal.
The man is known to have had close contact with bats over many years as part of his work as a conservation volunteer and has been bitten at least once before.
It is possible he was infected two years ago before developing any symptoms, as the incubation period of the disease varies.
He was described as "extremely ill" by Dr Dilip Nathwani, a consultant physician in infectious disease.
Dr Nathwani said he suspected the patient had contracted a less common form of paralytic rabies.Although the illness can be prevented by vaccines, it is usually fatal once it takes hold. Dr Nathwani said there were no recorded cases of person-to-person transmission of rabies.