Bats in Baldwin Swamp.
Bats in Baldwin Swamp.

Health warning after spate of bat-related injuries

RESIDENTS are being urged never to handle a bat, dead or alive.

The reminder comes after six Wide Bay people have required treatment after being scratched or bitten in the past 16 days.

All bats are potential carriers of Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV) and any bite or scratch from a bat poses a risk of infection, which is why only trained and vaccinated professionals should handle them.

Wide Bay Public Health Physician Dr Margaret Young said in two of the recent cases requiring treatment, people picked up what they believed was a dead bat.

"It can be difficult to determine if a bat is dead - and even if they're dead they still pose an infection risk to humans, particularly due to their wing claw," Dr Young said.

"In two of our recent cases of bat injuries, the people who handled them thought the bat was dead and harmless, but in one case the bat wasn't dead and in the other case the person was scratched by the wing claw."

Dr Young said wing claw injuries could occur if people:

• kicked a dead bat

• picked up a dead bat to toss it in a bin or into bushes

• put the bat in a bag then brush the bag against their leg.

"These injuries are a timely reminder that the best protection against being exposed to ABLV is for members of the public to always avoid handling any bat," she said.

Drought conditions and recent bushfires across the state have impacted on the habitats and food sources of bats, meaning injured, sick or dead bats will be more common.

Anyone who comes across an injured or possibly dead bat should contact a bat care organisation or call RSPCA1300 ANIMAL (1300 264625).

If the bat is visibly decaying and there is no doubt it is dead, then it can be removed using a no-touch technique such as tongs or a shovel, but people need to still be wary of the risks associated with the wing claw and it's best to call a professional.

"If you're somehow bitten, scratched, had your skin nibbled or had your mucous membranes or broken skin exposed to bat saliva, then you should always seek immediate medical assessment," Dr Young said.

"This applies even to minor scratches or abrasions from a bat, with or without bleeding, and even if you were previously vaccinated against rabies.

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