Bats, Rabies and Australian Bat Lyssavirus

You may have seen or heard the news that bat behaviour is changing and potentially putting more people to contact with bats and resulting injuries.

Bats in Australia may carry Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV) which may cause an illness indistinguishable from rabies. The virus can be passed from bats to humans if infected bat saliva enters the human body. This usually occurs from a bite or scratch, but also by getting bat saliva in the eyes, nose or mouth (mucous membrane exposure) or onto a pre-existing break in the skin.

Injuries involving bats and flying foxes may require rabies vaccination as soon as possible.

The advice for the general public is do not touch bats, even if they are injured or appear dead. Now is good time to take a few moments to explain to children that they should never touch or play with a bat or flying fox even if it appears dead or injured. See here for a kid-friendly poster from Queensland Health.

Bat-related injuries

First Aid

If you or your child are unlucky enough to be bitten or scratched or come into contact with body fluids, immediate first aid is important:

  • Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water for at least five minutes straight away.
  • Apply an antiseptic with anti-virus action such as povidone-iodine (eg Betadine or Riodine) or alcohol (ethanol) to the wound after washing.
  • If bat saliva or other fluids contact the eyes, nose or mouth, flush the area thoroughly with water for several minutes.
  • If you have any contact with bat fluids such as urine or faeces, wash your hands (or other affected area) immediately.
  • Seek medical advice about the need for rabies vaccination as soon as possible after the incident.

Rabies vaccination

Rabies vaccine is used to protect against ABLV infection developing. Even if a person has had rabies vaccine before (e.g. for travel overseas), further rabies vaccinations will be required if they are exposed to ABLV.

How to get help and treatment

During normal office hours Reydon Street Medical Centre patients should make an appointment to see their doctor by ringing the receptionist on 07 3216 8500 to explain why they are ringing and request an urgent appointment.

If we are closed, patients should contact

  • the nearest Queensland Health Emergency Department (QEII Hospital)
  • Contact your local public health unit 
  • Call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84)

What to do if you come across a bat

  1. Do not touch the bat.
    1. Only appropriately trained and vaccinated persons using appropriate protective equipment should handle bats.
    1. If it appears injured contact one of the following:
      • the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (1300 130 372),
      • RSPCA (1300 ANIMAL) or
      • Local wildlife care groups/rescuers/carers for assistance.

For more detailed information visit  the Queensland Health Australia Bat Lyssavirus web page

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