Be Bat Aware
Northern Territory residents and visitors are being reminded to avoid contact with all types of bats as they are all potential carriers of the serious and potentially deadly Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABL).
This reminder follows the recent detection of ABL in a Top End flying fox, making it the fourth bat to test positive to the virus in the Northern Territory since 1997.
ABL is similar to rabies with the virus affecting the nervous system which leads to encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and death.
There have been three cases of human infection in Australia, all in Queensland, and all three people died as a result of ABL infection after being bitten or scratched by bats.
Dr Vicki Krause, Director Centre for Disease Control reminds everyone that the best protection against being exposed to ABL is to avoid handling any bats and this includes flying foxes and insect eating micro bats.
“On average two to three people per month in the Northern Territory require expensive and multiple post exposure vaccination following injuries from bats to provide protection from a possible infection with the deadly virus.
“There have been 24 bat bites or scratches in the Territory so far this year.”
Any direct contact with bats increases the risk of potential injury and should be avoided. The virus is usually transmitted from bats to people through bites or scratches, or by being exposed to bat saliva through the eyes, nose or mouth.
Contact or exposures to bat fur, faeces, urine or blood do not pose a risk of exposure to ABL; nor does living, playing or walking near bat roosting areas.
Only people who have been vaccinated against ABL with the rabies vaccine and who have been trained in the care of bats should ever handle bats. If you find a sick, injured or dead bat, or if your pet catches a bat do not attempt to rescue or dispose of it. Instead, contact the nearest wildlife rescue service for assistance.
If you are scratched or bitten by a bat you should wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water for at least 5 minutes, apply an antiseptic solution and cover the wound. Seek medical attention immediately as vaccination can prevent infection if given early.
For further information call the Centre for Disease Control in Darwin, 8922 8044 or visit: http://www.health.nt.gov.au/Centre_for_Disease_Control/Publications/CDC_Factsheets/index.aspx
Media contact: Dimitra Grehl 8999 2818 or 0427 596 954