The message is simple: don’t touch bats
Queensland Health is urging the public not to touch or pick up bats even if the animals are injured or appear to be dead.
Bats and flying foxes may carry bacteria and viruses which can be harmful to humans, including the Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV); and as the weather heats up more bats are likely to be found on the ground.
It is very uncommon for bats to come directly into contact with people, but sometimes bats can become trapped in fruit netting, or on barbed wire fences, or can be found on the ground after getting separated from their mothers, or due to heat stress.
The Medical Director of the Department of Health Communicable Diseases Branch Dr Heidi Carroll said each year in Queensland there were approximately 300 reported cases of potential exposure to ABLV due mainly to untrained people handling bats.
“This number can be significantly reduced if the general public avoid touching bats and call a wildlife carer to assist instead,” Dr Carroll said.
“The message “don’t touch bats” isn’t new advice, but its important advice that people should take seriously.
“When people try to move a bat that appears to be dead or injured, that’s when they are most likely to be scratched or bitten.
“Parents should also closely supervise children in areas where bats are known to habitat, as a child’s curiosity may get the better of them.
“Scratches, bites and bat saliva onto mucous membranes in the eyes, nose or mouth from a bat are very serious and require immediate medical assessment to prevent the potential development of ABVL infection.
“Only vaccinated people who have been trained in the care of bats should ever handle a bat, regardless of its condition.
“Bats also move around in search of fruit and flowers and many Queenslanders have, or will have, bats in their neighbourhood at some stage. It’s important to note that there is no evidence that ABLV can be spread from bat and flying foxes faeces (droppings) or urine to humans.
“However, as with any contact with animal droppings or urine, people should practice good hygiene and hands should always be washed after contact with bat urine or droppings”.
If you are concerned about bats in your yard or neighbourhood please refer to Living near flying-foxes or contact your local council.
In the event someone is bitten or scratched by a bat, or exposed to bat saliva through the eyes, nose, or mouth, follow the below steps:
- Do not scrub the wound - wash the wound gently but thoroughly for about five minutes with soap and water
- If available, apply an antiseptic with anti-virus action such as povidone-iodine, iodine tincture, aqueous iodine solution or alcohol (ethanol)
- If bat saliva has got in the eyes, nose or mouth, flush the area thoroughly with water.
- Contact a doctor or the nearest hospital immediately to commence post exposure treatment
- Contact the RSPCA hotline on 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625) or a wildlife carer to collect the bat for testing, if it is available
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