Health authorities in Sydney are warning people to stay away from flying foxes and bats due to fears that they could be carrying a deadly, rabies-like disease called lyssavirus.
While there have only been three cases of lyssavirus in Australia in the past 18 years, they have all been fatal.
There have been no cases in NSW, but Dr Leena Gupta, Director of the Southern Sydney Local Health District Public Health Unit issued the warning because flying foxes and bats are currently foraging in backyard gardens and may also be distressed in hot weather.
“People should assume that all bats and flying foxes are infectious, regardless of whether the animal looks sick or not,” Dr Gupta said.
“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 solution to help prevent infection and seek urgent medical advice.”
Dr Gupta said only people who have been fully vaccinated against rabies, who are using protective equipment and have been trained in bat handling should handle bats.
If you come across a bat that is injured, distressed or caught in wire or netting, contact WIRES on 1300 094 737.
For more information about Australian Lyssavirus can be found here
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