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Don’t be a dingbat: Be bat-wise

18 Dec 2019


While it may be human nature to try and help a distressed or injured animal affected by the heat or bushfires, good Samaritans should be wary and avoid approaching distressed bats as they may carry a fatal disease.

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.

Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District Director of Public Health, Associate Professor Bradley Forssman says lyssavirus can be transmitted from bats to humans through infected saliva from a bat bite or scratch.

“Looks can be deceiving and sometimes animals can be infectious without showing visible signs of sickness. The virus can easily be contracted through breaks in your skin.”

The best protection against being exposed to the lyssavirus is to avoid handling bats in the wild. If you encounter a bat that appears injured or distressed do not try to rescue it.

“You are potentially putting yourself at risk of infection if you attempt to handle a wild bat. For your safety, as well as the bats, the best advice is to call in trained experts from your local wildlife rescue group who can help retrieve and care for the animal,” says Associate Professor Forssman.

In the past bats have tested positive to lyssavirus in and around the Penrith region.

If you are bitten or scratched by a bat Associate Professor Forssman advises to:

  • Clean the wound immediately with soap and water for at least five minutes
  • Apply an antiseptic solution after washing
  • Seek urgent medical advice from your General Practitioner (GP) and then call your local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055 for further advice.

For more information about lyssavirus refer to the Bat Bites and Scratches fact sheet.