Lyssavirus warning as residents advised against touching bats

Residents in the Hawkesbury, Nepean and Blue Mountains regions are being reminded to be cautious when approaching an injured or distressed bat as they may carry the fatal disease, lyssavirus.

A close relative to the rabies virus, lyssavirus can potentially be found in all four species of Australian fruit bats (flying foxes) and at least three species of insectivorous bats, according to a press release from Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District (NBMLHD).

Bats usually appear in high numbers in the summer months. This colony was photographed at South Creek, Windsor. Picture: Geoff Jones

Bats usually appear in high numbers in the summer months. This colony was photographed at South Creek, Windsor. Picture: Geoff Jones

NBMLHD Director of Public Health, Dr Victor Carey, warned residents against handling injured bats, as the virus could be transmitted from bats to humans "through infected saliva from a bite or scratch", and could be contracted easily through breaks in the skin.

He warned that although an animal might not look ill it could still be infectious without showing visible signs of sickness.

"The best way to protect yourself from infection is to leave the handling of the animal to the trained experts. Call your local wildlife rescue group or local veterinarian who can help care for the animal," Dr Carey said.

In the past, bats have tested positive to lyssavirus in and around the Hawkesbury, Nepean and Blue mountains regions, NBMLHD stated.

If bitten or scratched by a bat, humans should immediately wash the wound with soap and water for five minutes.

An antiseptic solution should be applied after washing, and a doctor should be consulted for further treatment and advice.

According to NBMLHD, rabies can be prevented following a bite or scratch, by urgent vaccination and post-exposure treatment.

Bats can often be seen in summer when they are more active.

If you see an injured bat, you can contact WIRES on 1300 094 737.