Residents warned to avoid handling bats
WITH a heatwave expected for later this week, health authorities are reminding residents to avoid handling injured or dead bats.
The North Coast Public Health Unit's acting director Greg Bell said with a number of mass die-offs of bats and flying foxes being linked to heat events in the past, health professionals are warning people to avoid contact with bats as they might carry serious diseases.
"People can get infected with the deadly lyssavirus if scratched or bitten by a bat, so steer clear of bats at all times," Mr Bell said.
"If not prevented, lyssavirus infection progresses to a rabies-like illness which is almost always fatal."
He said large numbers of bat deaths usually occur following heatwaves, or when they are unable to find enough food, and this is likely to continue throughout the coming hot summer.
"Most people scratched or bitten by bats have been trying to rescue them," Mr Bell said.
"It is essential that people do not touch bats as there is always the possibility of being scratched or bitten and being infected. Always assume that all bats and flying foxes are infectious."
There have been three cases of Australian bat lyssavirus in humans in Australia - all were in Queensland in 1996, 1998 and 2013 - and all three people died.
Human infection is very rare and Australian bat lyssavirus can only be transmitted to humans when infected flying fox saliva comes into contact with human tissue through an open wound or mucus membrane.
"If you see a bat in distress, injured or on the ground, do not try to rescue it," Mr Bell said.
"You may put yourself at risk, and also cause more harm to the bat. Instead, contact the experts at your local wildlife rescue group."
Mr Bell said if someone is bitten or scratched by any type of bat they should thoroughly clean the wound for at least five minutes with soap and water immediately, apply an antiseptic such as Betadine and seek urgent medical advice.
If your pet has interacted with a bat, seek prompt assistance from your local veterinarian.
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