SEVEN people have required treatment for a bat bite or scratch in the Hunter already this year, prompting a Hunter-wide warning to steer clear of the flying creatures.
Hunter New England Health on Monday said recent high temperatures had affected the species’ health, leading to an increase in people handling the animals as they attempted to come to their aid.
Public health physician Dr David Durrheim said handling the animals, including flying foxes and microbats, could lead to lyssavirus infection.
“While there have been three cases of infection in Australia over the past 40 years, lyssavirus is very serious and almost always fatal,” he said.
Dr Durrheim said it was best to avoid all contact with bats and speak with children about the dangers.
“Always assume that all bats and flying foxes are infectious, regardless of whether the animal looks sick or not,” he said.
If a bat of scratch is suffered, it should be thoroughly cleaned for at least five minutes with soap and water as soon as possible before applying an antiseptic solution and seeking urgent medical advice.
Injections to protect against lyssavirus may be required.
Anyone who comes in contact with an injured or trapped bat is advised to call local wildlife rescue groups.
Contact details for Hunter groups are available at environment.nsw.gov.au/wildlifelicences/RehabFaunaContact.hmtl