HEALTH

 

SPREADING SEEDS, NOT DISEASE

Like all wild animals, flying-foxes may carry diseases, but the risk of spreading those diseases to humans is extremely low. In fact, they pose no major health risks unless you are scratched or bitten by one. There are a number of diseases that may be carried and transmitted by flying-foxes that you should be aware of, and manage interactions to ensure you do not get infected.

Even then, the Australian Bat Lyssavirus is only present in about 1% of the entire population, and it is not spread through droppings or urine. However, although Australian Bat Lyssavirus is extremely rare (there have only ever been three reported cases in Australia) it is a deadly disease, so never touch a flying-fox unless you are trained and vaccinated against Australian Bat Lyssavirus. But again, provided basic hygiene measures are taken, and you never touch a flying-fox, there is no reason for the public to be concerned.

AUSTRALIAN BAT LYSSAVIRUS

The Australian Bat Lyssavirus is only present in about 1% of the entire population, and it is not spread through droppings or urine, only through bites and scratches. However, although Australian Bat Lyssavirus is extremely rare (there have only ever been three reported cases in Australia) it is a deadly disease, so never touch a flying-fox (or any other bat) unless you are trained and vaccinated against Australian Bat Lyssavirus. But again, provided basic hygiene measures are taken, and you never touch a Flying-fox, there is no reason for the public to be concerned.

HENDRA VIRUS

Hendra virus cases in humans are also very rare, and there is no evidence humans can contract the virus directly from flying-foxes. Hendra virus is, however, a very serious and life-threatening disease, and it can be transferred from horses to humans through exposure to the body fluids of infected animals. Hendra virus can cause death in horses. So, despite its rarity, it is still extremely important to take all necessary steps to reduce the possibility of outbreaks occurring. The most effective way to protect humans from Hendra virus is to vaccinate horses against the disease. The Hendra virus vaccine is available through veterinarians.

It is thought that horses may contract Hendra virus from eating food recently contaminated by flying-fox urine, saliva or other body fluids. Exposure to food infected by bats can be reduced by removing horses from paddocks where flying-foxes are roosting or feeding, removing food and water troughs for horses and other pets and livestock from underneath trees where flying-foxes are present. It is also important to maintain good hygiene practices around horses at all times, particularly animals that are sick.

 

 

FLYING-FOX MYTHS

FLYING-FOXES CARRY RABIES
Flying-foxes do not have rabies.
Flying-foxes are regarded as the natural reservoir of Australian Bat Lyssavirus which is similar, but not the same, as rabies.
Only a very small percentage of flying-foxes (less than 1%) are infected with Australian Bat Lyssavirus.

YOU CAN CATCH AUSTRALIAN BAT LYSSAVIRUS FROM TOUCHING FLYING-FOX DROPPINGS
Australian Bat Lyssavirus is a virus that is similar to rabies. The virus can only be transmitted through contact of mucous membranes (including the eye) or broken skin with the saliva or neural tissues of a bat. To date there have only been three confirmed cases of Australian Bat Lyssavirus in humans. These have all occurred in Queensland and were the result of direct flying-fox bites or scratches during the handling of infected animals.

There are no obvious indicators that a flying-fox is carrying the virus, therefore it is always best to assume that any flying-fox could be infected.

 

Trained and Vaccinated

TRAINED AND VACCINATED

Flying-foxes pose no major health risks to humans – unless you are bitten or scratched by one. So never touch a Flying-fox unless you are specifically trained and vaccinated. This is extremely important because while the chances of infection are extremely low (there have only ever been three reported cases in Australia), the outcome of contracting Australian Bat Lyssavirus is always fatal.

Even if previously vaccinated, if you are scratched or bitten by a Flying-fox, you should:

  • Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water for at least five minutes – proper cleansing of the wound reduces the risk of infection
  • Apply an antiseptic with anti-virus action such as povidone-iodine, iodine tincture, aqueous iodine solution or alcohol (ethanol) after washing
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible to care for the wound and to assess whether you are at risk of infection

For more information visit NSW Health.
Rabies and Australian Bat Lyssavirus infection fact sheet: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/infectious/factsheets/pages/rabies-australian-bat-lyssavirus-infection.aspx
Frequently asked questions: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/flying-foxes-questions.aspx

If your pets or other animals come into contact with a bat and you would like expert advice, contact the Emergency Animal Disease hotline on 1800 675 888.
For your Local Public Health Unit, phone 1300 066 055

 

FLYING-FOX MYTHS

YOU CAN CATCH HENDRA FROM TOUCHING FLYING-FOX DROPPINGS

People do not catch Hendra Virus from flying-foxes.  Hendra virus is an influenza-like virus and infection in horses and humans is rare. There is no evidence of bat-to-human, human-to-human, bat-to-dog or dog-to-human transmission of Hendra virus. It is thought that horses may contract Hendra virus from eating food recently contaminated by flying-fox urine, saliva or other body fluids.  All seven confirmed cases of Hendra virus in humans have been caused by exposure to high levels of virus in body fluids from infected horses, and all occurred in Queensland.