Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABL):
ABL was first identified in 1996, a close relative to the virus found overseas; Rabies.
It was in these early days, before awareness of the virus was public; that two unvaccinated wildlife carers came into contact with the virus and unfortunately died. Since then, it has become a requirement for all people involved in the handling of flying foxes and bats to be vaccinated against rabies.
The virus has only been found in the four major species of Flying Fox and in one species of Microbat.
ABL is incredibly rare, for instance, in the Spectacled Flying Fox, the species found here in Far North Queensland, only one every 100,000 carries the virus and they are not asymptomatic. This means that the Bat will fall to the symptoms of the virus and die within seven days, giving very little time to spread it to other bats or to humans.
ABL is transmitted through scratches or bites that break the skin. Just being in proximity to bat colonies, or coming into contact with their faeces/urine, does not pose a risk.
There is no treatment however for ABL, only prevention. You must have your three rabies vaccine shots to be able to handle bats, but only handle if necessary. Do not handle bats unless they are in need of assistance due to injury, orphaned of paralysis tick. And if possible, leave all handling to an experienced rescuer.
If you are not vaccinated and are concerned you have been exposed to ABL you will need to contact your GP and get three post exposure shots. Although ABL is incredibly rare, your safety comes first.
For more information of ABL in your state, go online and look up your government health site.
If you see a bat that you think has ABL or has been injured in some way or has been orphaned, contact FNQ Wildlife Rescue.
Microbats are living in my roof, am I at risk?
No, there are 44 species of microbats in Australia and only a handful prefer the safety of eaves space to roost, none of these species have been found to carry ABL.
I have Flying Foxes roosting in my garden, can I get ABL from their droppings? What about Microbat droppings?
No, there is no information to suggest that ABL can be transmitted through bat droppings. ABL is closely related to Rabies and research concerning Rabies shows that it can’t be transmitted by faeces.
I’ve been bitten by a bat, what should I do?
Contact your GP and arranged to get your post exposure vaccinations. It is highly unlikely that the bat would have ABL but you can never be too sure.
Flying Foxes and microbats do not go out of their way to bite people, they only come into contact with humans when they need to be taken into care because of injury/becoming orphaned. So the only people who should be handling the bat, should be vaccinated, experienced handlers.
A Microbat has come in through the window and hit the ceiling fan, what should I do?
Call FNQ Wildlife Rescue and they will arrange a rescuer to collect it. Keep an eye on it and make sure you know where it is when the rescuer arrives or if you have a cloth or small box, put it over the bat. They feel safe in confined dark places and if injured, will calm down if covered.
What about if I find an injured/orphaned flying fox?
The same, call FNQ Wildlife Rescue but do not approach the animal, just keep an eye on it and direct the rescuer to it when they arrive. If you cannot stay, give as many details as possible as to the location of the bat.