RESIDENTS are being reminded to keep clear of flying foxes after the deadly Australian bat lyssavirus was detected in an animal located in Katherine at the weekend.
The last detection of the deadly virus in the Northern Territory was in 1997 but Centre for Disease Control acting director Dr Peter Markey said residents needed to be careful.
“There has been no transmission of the virus to humans in the NT but it is timely to remind everyone that they should avoid contact with bats,” he said.
“It is best to assume that all bats are carrying the potentially fatal Australian bat lyssavirus, which can be transmitted through contact with bat saliva.”
Dr Markey said anyone who came in contact with a flying fox needed to take “immediate action” to avoid contracting the virus, which is related to rabies.
“If a bat scratch or bite occurs, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and running water for at least five minutes,” Dr Markey said.
“Cover the wound and seek medical attention immediately to receive life-saving protection with a rabies vaccination.
"Direct contact with bat saliva through the eyes, nose or mouth can also result in transmission; in this instance, immediately flush the area with water and seek medical help.”
Dr Markey also explained that contact with flying fox faeces did not present a risk, as the virus is unable to survive for more than a few hours outside a live animal.
The disease can be carried by fruit-eating flying foxes and insect-eating bats.
“As a result, bats should only be handled by experts who have been vaccinated against Australian bat lyssavirus with the rabies vaccine,” Dr Markey said.
"We urge anyone who finds a sick or injured bat, or finds dead bats that need to be disposed of, to contact the nearest wildlife rescue service for assistance.”
For further information call the Centre for Disease Control in Darwin on 08 8922 8044.