Australian state issues health alert after fatal virus detected among group of bats

A health alert has been issued after a fatal virus was detected among a group of bats in western Sydney.

The Western Sydney Local Health District warned locals against handling or going near bats over fears humans could catch Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV).

ABLV is usually transmitted via a bite or scratch from an infected or rabid animal, and can be deadly if not treated.

The health district is urging the community to avoid handling bats over fears the Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV) may be transmitted to humans.

Eleven people have required medical attention after being scratched or bitten by a bat in the region this year alone.

Last month the deadly virus was discovered in bats across the border in South Australia, prompting experts to warn the ‘rabies-like disease’ could kill humans if untreated.

Dr Louise Flood from the Department for Health and Wellbeing’s Communicable Disease Control Branch said it was the third time the virus had been confirmed in bats in the state.

‘ABL is a rabies-like disease that can be transmitted to humans if they are bitten or scratched by an infected bat and if treatment is delayed until after the onset of symptoms, the condition is invariably fatal,’ Dr Flood said.

‘While only one per cent of bats usually carry ABL, these two recent exposures are concerning and is an important reminder that bats should only ever be handled by appropriately trained and vaccinated animal handlers.

‘While the development of ABL from bat bites or scratches can be prevented through prompt wound management and post exposure prophylaxis, it is important to avoid contact in the first place.’