Although rare, bat lyssaviruses (bat rabies) can be transmitted to humans or other animals following contact with the saliva of an infected bat most often by a bite. The disease can also be transmitted if the saliva of an infected bat gets into open wounds or mucous membranes (such as on the eye, nose or mouth). Bat lyssaviruses can cause disease in humans that is indistinguishable from rabies.
Symptoms can take some time to develop, but when they do the condition is almost always fatal.
The risk to most travellers is low. However, it is increased for certain occupations for example bat handlers and veterinarians, or certain activities such as caving.
Bat Lyssavirus in Switzerland
Rabies has not been reported in domestic or wild animals in this country; therefore most travellers are considered to be at low risk. However, bats may carry bat lyssavirus (bat rabies).
Travellers should avoid contact with bats. Bites from bats are frequently unrecognised. Bat lyssaviruses are preventable with prompt post-exposure rabies treatment.
Following a possible exposure, wounds should be thoroughly cleansed and an urgent local medical assessment sought, even if the wound appears trivial. Although rabies has not been reported in other animals in this country, it is sensible to seek prompt medical advice if bitten or scratched. It is possible, although very rare for bats to pass rabies like viruses to other animals including pets.
Post-exposure treatment and advice should be in accordance with national guidelines.
- Pre-exposure rabies vaccinations are recommended for those who are at increased risk due to their work (e.g. laboratory staff working with the virus and those working with bats).
- Pre exposure vaccines could be considered for those whose activities put them at increased risk of exposure to bats.
Rabies in brief
TBE is a viral infection transmitted by the bite of infected ticks. Less commonly, cases of TBE occur following ingestion of unpasteurised milk products.
Travellers are at increased risk of exposure during outdoor activities in areas of vegetation (gardens, parks, forest fringes and meadows typically below 1,500 metres). Ticks are most active between spring and autumn.
Tick-borne encephalitis in Switzerland
There is a risk of TBE in some areas of the country. The areas mainly affected are Zurich, Thurgau, St. Gallen, Aargau and Bern cantons. Newly recognised areas include Neuchâtel canton. The transmission season varies, however, ticks are most active during early spring to late autumn (March to November).
- All travellers should avoid tick bites during outdoor activities.
- Travellers should check their skin regularly for ticks and remove them as soon as possible with a recommended technique.
- Travellers should not eat or drink unpasteurised milk products.
Tick-borne encephalitis vaccination
Vaccination is recommended for those visiting affected areas whose activities put them at increased risk including:
- those who are going to live in TBE risk areas
- those working in forestry, woodcutting, farming and the military
- travellers to forested areas typically during spring to late autumn e.g. campers, hikers, hunters and individuals who undertake fieldwork
- laboratory workers who may be exposed to TBE
Tick-borne encephalitis in brief