Residents face deadly risks handling bats: Health service

LEAVE the handling of bats to the experts.

This is the firm warning from North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS) following several recent cases requiring treatment for bat bites.

The unit's public health nurse, Marianne Trent, said the Lyssavirus carried by Australian bats was potentially fatal.

"Avoiding situations where you could be bitten or scratched is a much better strategy than facing a lengthy course of injections following a bat bite," she said.

"Lyssavirus is related to rabies and is usually a fatal disease.

"There have been two deaths in Australia as a result of the virus being transferred to humans by a bat bite or scratch."

In the past two months, the NCAHS Public Health Unit has been advised of at least seven people who have had bat bites or scratches and, in all cases, untrained people were bitten when trying to help an injured animal.

She said the large bat numbers were seen on the North Coast because of the breeding season and seasonal availability of fruit such as stone fruits.

"When people find bats that have become caught in fences, power lines or fruit netting, or had some other non-fatal accident, they are often tempted to handle them," she said.

"We strongly advise against this, even if the animal is in need of help. If a bat needs to be rescued, call an animal care group listed in your local phone directory."

If you are bitten or scratched by a bat:

Thoroughly wash the wound immediately with soap and wa- ter. Apply an antiseptic solution. See a doctor as soon as possible to care for the wound, and to assess the need for further treatment.

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