Deadly bat lyssavirus detected in Griffith

PEOPLE are being reminded to avoid all contact with bats following another detection of Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV) in a flying fox that scratched a person in Griffith.

Australian bat lyssavirus is a deadly virus that affects the nervous system of bats.

This virus is found in all species of bats – small insectivorous microbats as well as the larger flying fox species. 

Three cases of human infection with ABLV have been recorded since the virus was first identified in 1996, and all three people died.

Southern NSW Local Health District Public Health Unit director Tracey Oakman said samples from the deceased flying fox were submitted for testing and last Wednesday tested positive to ABLV.

 “This is the fourth time this year in NSW a bat submitted for testing has tested positive for ABLV and is a timely reminder of the risks of handling bats,” Ms Oakman said.

 “While only a small proportion of bats carry this virus, these affected bats can be found in residential areas.”

 “Australian bat lyssavirus is spread in the saliva of infected bats and infection occurs when virus in saliva enters the body through breaks in the skin such as bites and scratches.

 “Infection in people is very rare but, because of the serious consequences, it is extremely important for people to avoid handling bats.

 “If someone is bitten or scratched by any type of bat they should thoroughly clean the wound for at least five minutes with soap and water as soon as possible, apply an antiseptic such as Betadine, and seek urgent medical advice,” Mrs Oakman said.

A series of injections can be given to protect against lyssavirus infection and the first two need to be given as soon as possible.

There are some important steps to follow if you come into contact with a bat:

* Do not attempt to touch or handle a live or dead bat.

* Only trained, vaccinated bat handlers should attempt to catch injured or sick bats.

* If you encounter a sick, injured, or dead bat, contact the experts at WIRES on 1300 094 737.

* If you have been bitten or scratched by a bat, immediately contact your doctor.

For a copy of the NSW Health fact sheet on Rabies and Australian Lyssavirus Infection, click here

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