Will I catch a disease from Flying-foxes?

Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV) is only present in about 1% in the entire flying-fox population. Although ABLV infection is more common in sick, injured and orphaned bats and people are more likely to have contact with bats that are unwell or debilitated, as these bats may be found on or near the ground.

ABLV is transmitted by the saliva of an infected animal introduced via a bite or scratch or by contamination of mucous membranes or broken skin. In the event of a bat bite or scratch or other significant contact, seek medical attention immediately from your doctor or local hospital. 

Bite or scratch wounds should be immediately washed thoroughly with soap and water for approximately 5 minutes and a virucidal antiseptic applied. Bat saliva in the eyes or mouth should be rinsed out immediately and thoroughly with water.

ABLV is not spread via bat droppings or urine. Although ABLV is extremely rare (only 3 reported cases in Australia), never touch a flying-fox or insect-eating microbat. Always contact a  wildlife group who will have vaccinated people trained in the care of injured, sick or orphaned bats.

Hendra virus in humans is also very rare. There is no evidence humans can contract the virus directly from flying-foxes. Hendra virus, however, can be transferred from horses to humans through exposure to the body fluids of infected animals. The most effective way to protect humans from Hendra virus is to vaccinate horses against the virus. The vaccine is available through veterinarians.