Botanic garden bats could carry deadly disease

Health authorities are warning people to avoid handling bats which could carry lyssavirus.

The state’s health authority has warned Colac and district residents not to handle bats, which can carry diseases including the deadly bat lyssavirus.

The warning comes amid more than 1000 bats returning to the Colac Botanic Gardens in March.

A similar number of grey-headed flying foxes sparked concerns for the gardens in December 2016, but the bats departed four months later.

Victoria’s deputy chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton advised people who found an injured or distressed bat to call a trained wildlife rescuer.

Dr Sutton said the lyssavirus was rare but “100-per-cent fatal” if symptoms occurred after being bitten or scratched by the animal.

The virus has been found in 14 bats in Victoria in more than 20 years.

An effective post-exposure treatment, if given within a short time of contact with a bat, can stop the disease from developing.

“In Victoria up to three people a week may require post-exposure treatment after being bitten or scratched by a bat,” Dr Sutton said.

For the full story see today’s Colac Herald.

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