DON'T TOUCH: North Coast residents are reminded to avoid handling or touching injured or dead flying foxes or microbats.
DON'T TOUCH: North Coast residents are reminded to avoid handling or touching injured or dead flying foxes or microbats. Mike Richards GLA061017BATS

Residents warned to avoid bats as encounters increase

WITH an increase in flying fox and bat encounters, the North Coast Public Health Unit is warning residents to avoid handling or touching injured or dead flying foxes or microbats.

In the last month, 10 people have been bitten or scratched after handling flying foxes or microbats across the Mid North Coast and Northern NSW Local Health Districts.

North Coast Public Health Unit assistant director Greg Bell said members of the community should not handle flying foxes or microbats unless they have been trained, vaccinated against rabies and use the proper protective equipment.

"If you find an injured or distressed flying fox or bat, do not attempt to handle it yourself. Call your local wildlife rescue service," Mr Bell said.

"Australian bat lyssavirus or ABLV, while very rare, is a serious infection similar to rabies, that has been found in flying foxes and microbats, including on the North Coast."

Mr Bell said if you are bitten or scratched by a flying fox or bat, immediately wash the wound gently but thoroughly with soap and water, apply an antiseptic such as povidone-iodine, and consult a doctor as soon as possible to assess the need for further treatment.

NSW Health provides post-exposure rabies vaccinations for people in NSW who have been bitten or scratched by bats.

This is in addition to routine management of the wound, with proper cleaning reducing the risk of infection.

"In the event of an extreme heat stress or starvation event affecting bat populations, people should follow the directions given by wildlife rescue coordinators," Mr Bell said.