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The Metro South Public Health Unit (MSPHU) is reminding the public not to approach, touch or handle distressed or dead bats, with the current heatwave causing more bats to fall from trees.
Metro South Public Health Physician Dr Vicki Slinko said bats, microbats and flying foxes may carry bacteria and viruses that can be harmful to humans, including the Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV).
“Bats don’t normally approach humans. When people try to move a bat that appears to be dead or injured, that’s when they are most likely to be scratched or bitten,” she said.
“Scratches and bites from a bat as well as bat saliva in your eyes, nose or mouth, are very serious and require immediate first aid and medical assessment.
“Please leave bat rescues to trained carers and wildlife professionals, who are vaccinated against rabies and have the right protective equipment.
“If you come across an injured or sick bat, don’t touch it and contact the RSPCA on 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625).”
Dr Slinko said all parents should teach their children never to approach or touch bats, and to notify a trusted adult immediately if they have come into contact with a bat.
“The public should call 13 HEALTH (13 432 584) or visit a doctor immediately regarding any possible exposure,” she said.
“Prompt treatment following a bat scratch or bite can prevent serious disease and possibly death. But the best way to protect yourself and your family is to simply not touch or approach bats.”
On average 40 Metro South residents are exposed to the bites or scratches of bats each year, which could be significantly reduced if the general public avoided bats and called the RSPCA on 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625) to assist instead.