Be bat safe and signal the experts
18 Jan 2019
Good Samaritans are warned to be cautious if they encounter a distressed bat due to the extreme heat says Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District Director of Public Health, Associate Professor Bradley Forssman.
All four species of Australian fruit bats (flying foxes) and at least three species of insectivorous bats can potentially carry lyssavirus, a very close relative of the rabies virus.
Lyssavirus can be transmitted from bats to humans through infected saliva from a bat bite or scratch but also if a person gets saliva in their eyes, nose or mouth, or onto a pre-existing break in the skin.
“If you attempt to help a distressed or injured bat you are putting yourselves at risk of contracting a fatal infection,” says Associate Professor Forssman.
“Animals can be infectious without looking sick, so you should never attempt to handle bats or flying foxes. If you encounter a bat that is suffering or is distraught the best thing you can do is call in the experts.”
In the past bats have tested positive to lyssavirus in and around the Penrith region.
Dr Forssman advises that if you are bitten or scratched by a bat or flying fox you need to clean the wound immediately with soap and water for at least five minutes, apply an antiseptic solution, and seek urgent medical advice from your General Practitioner (GP) and then call your local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055 for further advice.
Research has shown that people often handle bats because they are concerned about the welfare of the bats and do not consider their own safety.
“People who are inexperienced in handling bats may actually cause more harm or distress to the animals and undoubtedly are endangering their own lives,” says Dr Forssman.
“The best advice to help the bats, and keep yourself safe, is to call WIRES on 1300 094 737 and let the experts retrieve and care for the injured animals.”
For more information about lyssavirus refer to the Bat Bites and Scratches fact sheet.