Don’t touch the bats! Deadly lyssavirus detected among bats in western Sydney

Flying fruit bat (flying fox) at Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney.

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) is urging community members to avoid handling bats after the Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV) was recently detected among bats in the area.

WSLHD Public Health Unit Director Dr Shopna Bag said that 11 people have already been referred to the Public Health Unit after being scratched or bitten by a bat in the area this year, with four people needing treatment.

“Lyssavirus can be transmitted from infected bats to humans through bites or scratches, so it is important people avoid handling any bat in distress, trapped or on the ground,” Dr Bag said.

“While human ABLV infection is extremely rare with only three cases ever recorded in Australia, it is fatal if not prevented with early vaccine treatment.”

The tragic story of eight year old Lincoln Flynn, Australia’s third ABLV victim

If you have found an injured or trapped bat, call your local wildlife rescue service WIRES on 1300 094 737.

Early symptoms of ABLV are flu-like, including headache, fever and fatigue. The illness then progresses rapidly to paralysis, delirium, convulsions and death.

Dr Bag said the disease spreads to people from the saliva of an infected bat, so you’re not at risk from urine or droppings if you live, play or walk near their colonies.

They may be cute, but leave handling babies like this Eastern tube-nosed bat to the experts.

If you are bitten or scratched by any type of bat, clean the wound with soap and water immediately for at least five minutes, apply an antiseptic such as Betadine, and seek urgent medical advice.

Following an exposure, people may need a series of injections to protect against lyssavirus infection with the first two to be given as soon as possible.

If your pet has interacted with a bat, seek prompt assistance from your vet. If you work with or intend to start working with bats, contact your local doctor about vaccination.

For more information on Australian bat lyssavirus visit here.