A JUVENILE red flying fox bat found in a Cairns suburb tested positive to Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV), Biosecurity Queensland principal veterinary officer Janine Barrett confirmed today.

She said while less than one per cent bats were infected with lyssavirus, it was more common in sick or injured bats.

Members of the public should always avoid handling live bats.

"It is a virus endemic in Australian bats that causes an invariably fatal encephalitis, an infection and inflammation of the brain, in bats, humans and other animals, Dr Barrett said.

Cairns Regional Council's flying fox dispersal program has been successful, with all of the bats the roost relocating to forest located near the corner of Anderson Road and Hoare Street in Manoora. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Cairns Regional Council's flying fox dispersal program has been successful, with all of the bats the roost relocating to forest located near the corner of Anderson Road and Hoare Street in Manoora. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE


There were three confirmed cases of lyssavirus in bats this year, and one last year.

Three people have died from lyssavirus after they were bitten or scratched by bats in the past 24 years.

An eight-year-old boy from North Queensland died in 2013.

"In humans, ABLV causes an invariably fatal encephalitis which is an infection and inflammation of the brain," Dr Barrett said.

"Clinical signs include paralysis, seizures and tremors."

Only rabies vaccinated people who are experienced in handling bats and using appropriate personal protective equipment should rescue or examine a bat.

If you, or another person may have been bitten or scratched, immediately wash the wound and urgently seek medical advice. Vaccination may be necessary to prevent onset of disease.

If a bat needs help, contact FNQ Wildlife Rescue's 24-hour hotline on 4053 4467.

Cairns Regional Council began the controversial removal of a 5000-strong colony of endangered spectacled flying foxes in July, in a project costing more than $5000.

Originally published as Deadly virus found in Cairns bat: What's the risk?



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