The Western NSW Population Health Unit is warning the community about the dangers of touching bats.
Flying fox colonies in public places found in parks, school grounds and residential areas can sometimes raise concerns about possible health risks for the general public. Such concerns include risk of infections, noise, odour and the impact of flying fox droppings on houses, cars and washing.
All types of bats, including both flying foxes and micro-bats can carry life threatening diseases such as Australian Bat Lyssavirus, a rabies-like virus. Australian Bat Lyssavirus is found in the saliva of infected animals. The virus can only be spread to other animals and people through the bite or scratch of a flying fox or bat. Australian Bat Lyssavirus is not spread through flying fox or bat urine or droppings.
Human infections with these viruses are very rare. In Australia, there have been three confirmed cases of Australian Bat Lyssavirus in humans. All were in Queensland. There have been no cases of human infections in NSW to date, although five bats have tested positive to Lyssavirus in NSW this year.
There have been a number of people treated in the Western NSW Local Health District treated for bat bites or scratches so far this year. Western NSW Coordinator Communicable Disease Control Priscilla Stanley warns it is unsafe for people to touch bats.
Members of the community should not handle flying foxes unless they have been trained, vaccinated against rabies and use the proper protective equipment. If you find an injured or distressed flying fox, do not attempt to handle it yourself. Call your local wildlife rescue service WIRES on 1300 094 737.
If anyone is bitten or scratched by a flying fox or bat the wound should immediately be washed gently but thoroughly with soap and water, an antiseptic, such as povidone-iodine applied, and a doctor consulted as soon as possible to assess the need for further treatment.
The message for today and the future is simple – don't touch bats!