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Bat deaths prompt health warning

Sick bat in the wild
Queenslanders are being warned not to touch
bats or flying foxes

Tuesday 7 January 2014

The spate in bat deaths being attributed to recent extreme temperatures has prompted Queensland Health to issue a reminder not to touch or handle bats.

Bats are reportedly suffering heat stress as a result of the severe weather, with thousands of bats dying from the heat in Queensland.

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said Queensland Health had already seen a dramatic increase (250 per cent) in the number of people reporting exposures to bat bites and scratches since the beginning of last year.

Wildlife groups have also reported an increase in the number of bats and flying foxes in suburban areas in search of food and water, with some found trapped in fruit netting and on barbed-wire fences.

Dr Young said the majority of exposures occurred when people attempted to handle injured, sick or trapped bats.

"If you find a bat it is very important not to touch the bat because of the risk of infection with Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV)," she said.

"Some bats may appear to be dead but they're not, and when people have attempted to remove them they have been bitten or scratched."

Dr Young said anyone who finds a sick or injured bat or flying fox should contact the RSPCA (1300 264 625), or their local wildlife care group for assistance.

If you are concerned about a bat that you think is dead you should contact the RSPCA or your local wild-life group for advice on how to safely remove it.

Your local council may also be able to assist with the removal of dead bats.

"It is very important to not attempt to assist the animal yourself."

In the event someone is bitten or scratched by a bat or exposed to bat saliva through the eyes, nose or mouth they are advised to follow these steps:

  1. Do not scrub the wound - wash the wound gently but thoroughly for about five minutes with soap and water
  2. If available, apply an antiseptic with anti-virus action such as iodine-based disinfectant (e.g. Betadine) or alcohol (ethanol)
  3. If bat saliva has got in the eyes, nose or mouth, flush the area thoroughly with water.
  4. Contact a doctor or the nearest hospital immediately

For more information visit the bat information page on the Queensland Health website or call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84). Queensland Health has also developed a range of resources for children; kids and bats can't be friends.

Background information


Last Updated: 06 January 2014
Last Reviewed: 06 January 2014