Three bats have tested positive to Australian lyssavirus in Brisbane in recent weeks, prompting health officials to renew their warnings not to handle injured animals.
- Three bats were found to have Australia bat lyssavirus in December
- Health officials are urging people not to handle bats, even those that appear dead
- Three people have died since the virus was detected in Australia in 1996
The most recent positive case was found in a bat in Anstead Bushland Reserve, in Brisbane’s south-west, on December 30.
“We have been in contact with those people who reported the bat when it was found and those who cared for it,” a spokesperson for Queensland Health’s Metro North Health Unit said.
Three people have died from Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV) since the virus was detected in 1996.
It is transmitted through scratches or bites and in humans causes paralysis, delirium, convulsions and death, according to Queensland Health.
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The rabies-like virus has been found in four kinds of flying foxes or fruit bats and one species of insect-eating microbat, but all bats are assumed to be potential carriers.
People should not to handle bats, even if they appear dead, according to Queensland Health guidance.
“It is very important to provide urgent treatment if anyone has had a scratch or bite from a bat to prevent a lethal disease,” the Queensland Health spokesperson said.
The RSPCA took in the Anstead bat just three days after a bat from East Ipswich also tested positive.
“At RSPCA we hardly ever get a positive result the fact that we’ve had two come in so close together is a bit of a concern,” RSPCA veterinarian Meaghan Barrow said.
“It’s something we’re looking into and some of the other bat care and rescue groups.”
Earlier in December, a positive case was found in Cairns.
“If anyone sees a bat that is injured we recommend that people don’t touch them at all. Obviously, any sick bat could have a risk of having Lyssavirus,” Dr Barrow said.
Three people have died in Queensland since Australian bat lyssavirus was identified in 1996.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)
Rescue groups warns bats should not be demonised
Jennifer Sullivan from Bat Conservation and Rescue Queensland said the cases were not necessarily a cause for concern.
“We do get the occasional flare-up every now and then,” she said.
“There is no risk of contracting the disease if you don’t touch the bat”.
Ms Sullivan said bats were an integral part of the ecosystem and should not be demonised.
“Bats have a bit of a stigma that comes across from being a night-time animal but in reality they are vital to our ecosystem in Australia,” she said.
“Flying foxes are a keystone species so without them our ecosystem actually crashes.
“I don’t think lyssavirus is one of the things we should be concerned about they’re far more at risk from habitat destruction”.
A sick or injured bat can be helped by contacting local rescue groups or RSPCA.