Friends of the Far North Flying Foxes Inc
PROPOSED STRATEGIES FOR BAT HANDLERS
FLYING FOX VIRUS ALERT: When a wild flying fox is reported by a member of the general public, precautions should be taken in case of possible Lyssavirus infection. This virus is as lethal as Rabies and medical attention must be sought if anyone is bitten or scratched by a flying fox. Care should also be taken when handling flying foxes that may have bat paramyxovirus (EMV or BPV).
1. Keep a good distance from a flying fox, which appears to be unusually tame and hanging low, especially in daylight hours. If the bat does not leave, contact a rabies vaccinated bat handler, ideally a vaccinated veterinarian or experienced vaccinated bat treater to catch the bat. They should use thick bath towels, protective gloves (ideally welding or butchers gloves), face mask, safety hat and wear thick clothing. Cage the bat in isolation and feed for one week, taking care not to be bitten or scratched. Note any signs of illness, especially neurological symptoms, such as savage biting. Animals which die or develop suspect symptoms should be taken to an Australian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) office or veterinarian for euthanasia and testing for lyssavirus.
2. If the bat cannot be captured but continues to hang around, get a rabies vaccinated person to hang out a bucket of food in case it is simply hungry. Keep a safe distance from the bat at all times and depart quickly.
3. If anyone has been bitten or scratched by a bat, they
should immediately wash the bite gently with soap and water for 5 minutes
and then seek medical attention, at a hospital. They will require the
rabies vaccine and immunoglobulin injections. This is particularly urgent,
if the bat flew away or subsequently died with neurological symptoms
or was euthanased and found to have lyssavirus. Ideally, all bats which
bite a human should be kept for a week to check for development of lyssavirus
4. Only rabies vaccinated people should enter a flying fox colony. Extreme care should be taken not to be bitten or scratched by sick flying foxes.
5. Thick clothing, boots, safety hats and welding or butchers gloves must be worn when handling the flying foxes. The bats should be wrapped in thick bath towels and placed in a basket or cage.
6. Animals with neurological symptoms, especially savage biting behaviour should be taken to a veterinarian, euthanased and tested for lyssavirus as in 1. above.
7. Soap will be left in the colony beside the creek for
washing of bite wounds.
8. Pregnant or recently birthed flying foxes and their
young offspring may carry live bat paramyxovirus and should be handled
in a hygienic fashion, avoiding any skin contact with body fluids, such
as birthing fluids, blood, urine or saliva. If you find an aborted or
dropped baby flying fox, wrap it in a thick cloth, avoiding skin contact
or contact with any body fluids. Wash you hands with soap and water
after handling the bat or any of its body fluids. Baby bats will be
washed, fed and observed at the bat hospital for a week before being
fostered out to a rabies vaccinated carers.
9. Only rabies vaccinated people should remove bats from barbed wire.
10. All bats must be treated as possible lyssavirus cases and handled using welding gloves and thick bath towels. The same observational procedures should be adopted as in 1. above. The precautions with BPV should also be observed for pregnant or recently birthed flying foxes.
12. All fresh dead bats should be deep frozen in plastic
bags, labelled as per date, location, cause of death and behaviour prior
to death and sent to Hume Field at the DPI (in Far North Queensland)
13. Only vaccinated people will be allowed to foster baby flying foxes. The babies will be kept at the bat hospital for a week for observation of any lyssavirus symptoms. This period of time should see them through most of the bat paramyxovirus incubation period as well.
Information provided by Ann Johnson