Take care around flying foxes
People are being urged to avoid contact with bats and flying foxes as they might carry serious diseases following mass bat deaths in parts of NSW.
Council’s Group Manager Planning and Environment Matt Prendergast says, ‘It has been reported by NSW Health that the Hunter New England area are amongst the sites experiencing flying fox deaths. People are being urged not to pick up dead or dying flying foxes and bats unless qualified to do so’.
NSW Health has released a statement noting that while human infection is very rare, if not prevented, diseases obtained from infectious flying foxes via scratches or bites can be fatal. The Lyssavirus can only be transmitted to humans when infected flying fox saliva comes into contact with human tissue through an open wound or mucus membrane.
‘Large numbers of bat deaths usually occur following heat waves, or when they are unable to find enough food. Whilst it is not clear why the current deaths are occurring, the drought, fires and high temperatures are likely to be factors,’ added Mr Prendergast.
Reports have been received that flying foxes are behaving differently due to malnourishment and exhaustion. Where flying foxes are not able to return to camp areas, they are refuging either as individuals or small groups. People are being urged to not disturb flying foxes particularly during the drought conditions.
Advice from NSW Health is that if people see a bat in distress, injured or on the ground, do not try to rescue it. They advise to contact your local licensed wildlife carer or local veterinarian.
Further advice is that if a person is bitten or scratched by any type of bat they should thoroughly clean the wound for at least five minutes with soap and water immediately, apply an antiseptic and seek medical advice.
Additionally, if your pet has interacted with a bat, seek advice from your vet.
For more information about flying foxes in Maitland, visit maitland.nsw.gov.au/flying-foxes where you can also access fact sheets from various NSW State Government departments.