Virus scare after bat scratch

Fruit bats in the botanic gardens. Picture: KYLIE ESLER
Fruit bats in the botanic gardens. Picture: KYLIE ESLER

THE deadly bat lyssavirus has been detected in the Riverina.

Public health unit Murrumbidgee Local Health District director Tracey Oakman said a person had been scratched by a bat at Griffith.

The virus had been found in material from the dead bat tested for the virus.

“This is the fourth time this year in NSW bat material has tested positive,” Mrs Oakman said.

“Only a few bats carry this virus, but affected bats can be found in residential areas.”

The positive test comes as Albury Council copes with an infestation of up to 1000 bats in the city’s botanic gardens.

A section of the gardens has been cordoned off and the council is awaiting for the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage to approve it moving the colony on.

A council spokesman said there had a report of a bat biting a visiting Northern Territory girl, 12, in the gardens.

The bat, when tested, was found not to be carrying the lyssavirus.

Mrs Oakman said lyssavirus spread through bats’ saliva and entered the body through breaks in the skin after bites or scratches.

“Infection is very rare, but, because of the serious consequences it is vital for people to avoid handling bats,” she said.

“Someone bitten or scratched should thoroughly clean the wound for at least five minutes with soap and water, apply an antiseptic such as Betadine, and seek urgent medical advice.”