Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Bat rabies surveillance in Finland

Tiina Nokireki1*, Anita Huovilainen1, Thomas Lilley2, Eeva-Maria Kyheröinen3, Christine Ek-Kommonen1, Liisa Sihvonen14 and Miia Jakava-Viljanen15

Author Affiliations

1 Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira, Mustialankatu 3, Helsinki FI-00790, Finland

2 Section of Biodiversity and Environmental Science, Department of Biology, University of Turku, Turku FI-20014, Finland

3 Finnish Museum of Natural History, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 17, Helsinki FI-00014, Finland

4 Department of Veterinary Biosciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 66, Helsinki FI-00014, Finland

5 Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Food Department, Animal and Plant Health, Mariankatu 23, Helsinki FI-00023, Finland

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BMC Veterinary Research 2013, 9:174  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-174

Published: 8 September 2013



In 1985, a bat researcher in Finland died of rabies encephalitis caused by European bat lyssavirus type 2 (EBLV-2), but an epidemiological study in 1986 did not reveal EBLV-infected bats. In 2009, an EBLV-2-positive Daubenton’s bat was detected. The EBLV-2 isolate from the human case in 1985 and the isolate from the bat in 2009 were genetically closely related. In order to assess the prevalence of EBLVs in Finnish bat populations and to gain a better understanding of the public health risk that EBLV-infected bats pose, a targeted active surveillance project was initiated.


Altogether, 1156 bats of seven species were examined for lyssaviruses in Finland during a 28–year period (1985–2012), 898 in active surveillance and 258 in passive surveillance, with only one positive finding of EBLV-2 in a Daubenton’s bat in 2009. In 2010–2011, saliva samples from 774 bats of seven species were analyzed for EBLV viral RNA, and sera from 423 bats were analyzed for the presence of bat lyssavirus antibodies. Antibodies were detected in Daubenton’s bats in samples collected from two locations in 2010 and from one location in 2011. All seropositive locations are in close proximity to the place where the EBLV-2 positive Daubenton’s bat was found in 2009. In active surveillance, no EBLV viral RNA was detected.


These data suggest that EBLV-2 may circulate in Finland, even though the seroprevalence is low. Our results indicate that passive surveillance of dead or sick bats is a relevant means examine the occurrence of lyssavirus infection, but the number of bats submitted for laboratory analysis should be higher in order to obtain reliable information on the lyssavirus situation in the country.

EBLV; Lyssavirus; Rabies; Seroprevalence