Scottish bat worker dies after contracting rabies

The bat conservation worker who contracted a rare form of rabies from being bitten by one of the animals died last night after spending a fortnight in intensive care.

David McRae, 55, a volunteer naturalist who had spent 15 years working with bats, had been critically ill in Ninewells Hospital in Dundee. He was bitten while on a field exercise in the summer. Mr McRae, from Guthrie, Angus, died hours after laboratory tests confirmed he was suffering from European bat lyssavirus (EBL), a type of rabies found in several northern European countries. There is no known cure for the disease.

It was the first case of EBL in Britain for 100 years.

Mr McRae had been licensed by Scottish Natural Heritage, the national wildlife agency, to work with bats as part of a research project. A spokesman said yesterday: "This is a bleak day for everyone involved in conservation in Scotland. Every one is completely devastated at this terrible news."

Doctors, who had feared an influx of panic calls from the public when news of Mr McRae's illness was released, repeated their advice that only people who came into direct contact with bats were at any risk of contracting the disease. NHS Taysideconfirmed that clinical staff closely involved in caring for Mr McRae, who was treated in an isolation unit, would continue to be offered advice and vaccinations.

His partner, Carole, and his two adult sons had also been at his bedside when he became critically ill.

The wildlife artist, who had had close contact with bats over many years, was one of several volunteers bitten on the field trip he led in Angus this summer. Mr McRae was admitted to hospital two weeks ago after complaining of feeling unwell. None of his colleagues had displayed symptoms.

It was reported last week that none of the group had received inoculations recommended against EBL, which causes fever, paralysis and an eventual lapse into coma.

Scottish Natural Heritage said that since first hearing of the case, it had expected the diagnosis to be confirmed. The organisation has suspended all but a handful of the 100 bat licences issued in Scotland until its non-compulsory vaccination policy has been reviewed.

Several volunteers and Scottish Natural Heritage staff have come forward since Mr McRae's case, with concerns about past bat bites. They are receiving treatment.

In mainland Europe, where the EBL strain is common, there have been only three cases of humans catching rabies since 1977. Only two bats in Britain have been found with EBL in recent years. Both were Daubenton bats, a tiny animal that feeds by skimming over water. It is thought to have been this type of bat that bit Mr McRae in the summer, although exactly when he contracted the virus is not known.

The conservationist, whose work as a professional wildlife artist frequently took him abroad, had a small converted aviary for bats at his home.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

    £30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor