Avoid touching injured bats during summer heatwave

Hands off: Leave the handling of bats - even cute babies - to trained and vaccinated WIRES staff as they could be carrying a deadly virus. Picture: GREG TOTMAN
Hands off: Leave the handling of bats - even cute babies - to trained and vaccinated WIRES staff as they could be carrying a deadly virus. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Residents are being reminded to avoid handling or touching injured or dead flying foxes and microbats, as we come into summer when bats may be more active.

Large numbers of bat deaths usually occur following heat waves, or when they are unable to find enough food. Bats can carry a number of viruses, including Australian Bat Lyssavirus that can be very dangerous to humans if bitten or scratched.

North Coast Public Health Unit Director Paul Corben said if you find an injured or distressed flying fox or microbat, do not attempt to handle it yourself.

"You may put yourself at risk, and also cause more harm to the bat. So call your local authorised wildlife rehabilitation group or a local veterinarian," Mr Corben said.

"If you must touch a dead bat, avoid directly handling it. Use a shovel or other implement and wear thick gloves to pick up the dead bat and dispose of its body by deep burial.

"You should only handle flying foxes or microbats if you have been trained by a reputable wildlife organisation, vaccinated against Lyssaviruses and use appropriate protective equipment."

If you or your children are bitten or scratched by a flying fox or microbat:

  • The wound should immediately be washed thoroughly with soap and water
  • An antiseptic such as povidone-iodine should be applied
  • Consult a doctor as soon as possible to assess the need for further treatment.

NSW Health provides post-exposure treatment and vaccinations for people in NSW if they are bitten or scratched by bats. This is in addition to the recommended wound care process described above.

There have been no Lyssavirus notifications among NSW residents in the past four years.

For more information on safely handling flying foxes and microbats, visit the NSW Health website http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/flying-foxes.aspx

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This story Avoid touching injured bats during summer heatwave first appeared on Guardian News.