Thursday , October 21 2021

Cairns heat waves cause a bat bite surge


CAIRNS and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service have advised people to be aware of bats, because heat waves send them down from trees and into the range of bites.

Doctor Richard Gair, Director of the Tropical Community Health Service (Cairns), said there were reports of bats falling from trees after recent extreme weather.

"There are six notices about people bitten or scratched by bats in the past week, including these four days, which are unusually high and although public health warnings were issued last week," he said.

media_cameraFlying foxes on the fig tree in the library FIGURE: ANNA ROGERS

He said some bats might be infected with a potentially deadly Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV).

"ABLV is an infection such as rabies, which can be transmitted through the bite of a bat or scratch, or maybe through exposure of the eyes, nose or mouth to saliva bats," he said.

Dr. Gair said anyone who saw a wounded or fallen bat should avoid handling it and instead report it to rescuers or carers of vaccinated wildlife.

"All bats and bat bites require treatment, including vaccination, to prevent the development of ABLV," he said.

"Fast treatment after a bite or scratch from a bat can prevent serious illness and death."

There are three cases of human infection due to ABLV, all in Queensland and all of them fatal; in 1996, 1998 and 2013.

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