At the start of bat breeding season, health authorities are warning people not to touch bats in case they carry lyssavirus, a rabies related disease.
In the lead up to bat birthing season, Australians are being urged not to touch injured flying foxes because of lyssavirus, a disease related to rabies.
NSW Health issued the warning, saying it’s concerned that during October and November young and miscarried pups may be on the ground, tempting people to rescue them.
This year there have been three people in NSW bitten or scratched by bats or flying foxes that were later confirmed to have had lyssavirus.
Three Australians have died from the illness since it was discovered 18 years ago.
The deaths all occurred in Queensland in 1996, 1998 and 2013.
Dr Vicky Sheppeard, Director of Communicable Diseases Branch, said the best protection against being exposed to the illness is to avoid handling any bat.
“Only people who have been fully vaccinated against rabies, use protective equipment and have been trained in bat handling should touch bats,” she said.
Seven species of flying fox are found in Australia, with the most common, the grey-headed listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
They play a vital role in the environment, pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds as they forage on the nectar and pollen of eucalypts, melaleucas and banksias and on the fruits of rainforest trees.
WHAT IS LYSSAVIRUS?
* The Australian bat lyssavirus (ABL) was first recognised in 1996.
* Lyssavirus is closely related to the classic rabies virus.
* The infection is transmitted to humans by bites or scratches from infected flying foxes or bats.
* Vaccines and post-exposure treatments are effective, but the simplest form of prevention is to avoid handling bats.
* The incubation period for rabies virus infection is usually 3 to 8 weeks.
* Initial rabies symptoms include fever and pain or tingling at the site of the animal bite.
* If you’re bitten or scratched by any type of bat you should clean the wound for at least five minutes with soap and water, apply an antiseptic such as Betadine and seek urgent medical advice.