Bat-man bites prompt rabies treatment rush
Several people have sought treatment after being bitten by bats which can carry a potentially deadly virus.
ACT Chief Health Officer Paul Kelly said that during the past week the ACT Health Directorate has received a number of requests for anti-rabies treatment for people who have been bitten or scratched by bats.
The injuries have occurred when people are picking up bats that appear injured.
"All Australian bats have the potential to carry the Australian Bat Lyssavirus, which is in the same virus family as rabies and can be fatal in humans, therefore it is recommended that people avoid contact with all bats," Dr Kelly said.
Dr Kelly said only vaccinated people who have been trained in the care of bats should handle them.
"Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABL) is spread by the saliva of infected animals through bites, scratches or licks on broken skin. Bats with ABL may appear sick or be unnaturally aggressive but this is not always the case," Dr Kelly said.
"Touching bats or coming into contact with their urine, faeces or blood will not transmit ABL but may expose you to other viruses or bacteria that cause human disease.
"If you are bitten, scratched or licked by a bat it is important to wash the wound or area thoroughly, for about five minutes, with soap and water. If available, an antiseptic or alcohol solution should be applied after washing.
"If saliva from a bat went into your eyes, nose or mouth flush well with water."
For anyone needing extra incentive to avoid potential contact with bats, Dr Kelly said the treatment program was quite rigorous, beginning with a series of injections directly into a wound followed by five more injections.
The only way to test for infection was via a brain biopsy of the bat, which is a long process and not always possible - meaning that anyone injured by a bat must undergo at least some of the treatment until biopsy results are returned.
The recent presentations were for contact with smaller insect-eating bats, not flying foxes, and were not connected.
People who see injured bats should contact the RSPCA on 6287 8113, or call the afterhours wildlife rescue officer on 0413 495 031.
with staff reporters