Rabies is an exceptionally fatal encephalitis caused by Rhabdoviruses in the Lyssavirus genus. Transmission typically occurs when broken skin is contaminated with saliva from an infected mammal—usually in association with a bite but in rare instances by scratches. The most well-known and ubiquitous lyssavirus is the rabies virus (RABV), which circulates in New World bats and both Old and New World terrestrial mammals. The vast majority of human rabies cases worldwide are transmitted by dogs infected with RABV. A lesser known member of the genus is the Mokola virus, which has been isolated from a number of terrestrial mammals in Africa (most notably shrews) and has caused at least two human cases 
. Reservoirs for the remaining nine members of the Lyssavirus genus appear to be exclusively Old World bats 
Rabies is a major public health problem in Asia. Of the estimated 55,000 human cases that occur annually worldwide, more than half occur in Asian countries 
. In recent decades, initiatives aimed at raising rabies awareness (e.g. the World Rabies Day campaign) and lowering human exposure risk through mass vaccination of leading reservoir species have been implemented globally, coinciding with the development of highly potent human rabies vaccines 
. Notable trends have subsequently followed. Of all Asian countries, Thailand has experienced the steadiest decline in human rabies cases, with a near 10-fold decrease in reported cases during the last 20 years 
. Much of this decline is attributable to the country's very extensive use of rabies vaccine in the treatment of persons bitten by dogs. In 2003, for instance, more than 400,000 people in Thailand were vaccinated against rabies following potential rabies exposures 
Historically in Southeast (SE) Asia, animal-based prevention efforts for rabies have almost exclusively been centered on dogs. Most reported human cases in the region are traced to these animals either through an exposure history or through molecular or antigenic subtyping of variants from rabid human patients 
. The canine-associated rabies variant has been the only one linked to terrestrial wildlife and domestic animals in Thailand 
, further evidence that dogs are the main lyssavirus reservoir in the region. To date, no human cases of rabies linked to lyssaviruses other than canine-associated RABV have been reported in Thailand or the rest of SE Asia. Like other dog-rabies endemic countries, the majority of human rabies victims in Thailand are children under the age of 15 years 
Within the last ten years, however, interest in bats and their role in lyssavirus transmission has increased in the region. The discovery of the Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV) in Australian flying fox bats (Pteropus spp.
) in the mid-1990's and the isolation of new bat lyssaviruses in the former Soviet Union 
were pivotal in turning scientific interest towards the study of potential Asian bat reservoirs. In the last 10 years, evidence of lyssavirus maintenance in SE Asian Chiropterans has emerged from surveillance in Cambodia, Thailand, Bangladesh, and the Philippines 
. Although lyssaviruses have not yet been isolated from these mammals, neutralizing antibodies associated with lyssaviruses have been detected in sera from both regional mega and microbats. These findings strongly suggest that Asian bats maintain lyssaviruses like their counterparts in Europe, Africa, Australia, and the Americas. Human deaths due to bat-borne rabies infection have been well documented in these continents 
. In particular, rabid vampire bats are a major cause of human mortality in South America's Amazon region 
Routine surveillance for bat rabies is lacking in Asia and as a consequence, understanding is limited regarding the extent of lyssavirus circulation among SE Asian bats and the impact on animal and public health. However, evidence thus far raises pressing questions about human health risks. The potential implications of bat rabies are particularly salient in SE Asia because human-bat interaction occurs routinely in many locales. Bat guano is regularly mined from caves for use as a fertilizer. Hunting of bats for sale and personal consumption occurs as well, despite laws to stop this practice. The presence of large numbers of bats at many Buddhist temples also promotes exposures, as these sites are focal points for commerce, tourism, and religious expression.
Because the severity of skin trauma inflicted by bats is usually minor and unlikely to prompt a medical visit on the basis of physical injury alone, public knowledge of appropriate health-seeking behaviors following a bat exposure is especially important in preventing cases of bat-borne rabies. Rabies postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) for bat bites and scratches, as recommended by both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), includes thorough wound washing and the administration of rabies immune globulin (in non-immunized individuals) and rabies vaccine administered in a series of doses 
. When administered promptly and properly, rabies PEP is highly effective in preventing the disease. To date, however, no intervention has proven effectiveness in stopping the clinical course after symptom onset, a fact which further underscores the importance of early care following a possible lyssavirus exposure.
Little is known about the extent of bat-specific rabies awareness in SE Asia. To assess the knowledge and practices of individuals who are most at-risk of bat exposures in Thailand, we surveyed persons who regularly come in contact with bats or bat dwellings through occupational activities and other practices. We sought to elucidate gaps in knowledge that potentially have bearing on rabies prevention, describe the occurrence of bat-associated exposures in this population, and explore factors associated with bat exposures that are of potential consequence to lyssavirus transmission.