What Does a Bat Bite Look Like: Bat bites are one of the leading causes of rabies-related deaths in Australia, with the Lyssavirus carried through bites and scratches.
There is currently no cure for rabies infection from bats. However, proper cleaning of wounds and getting vaccination can help prevent serious complications.
Bat Rabies Factsheets
Australia is home to over 90 bats species found in many different habitats. In contrast to popular belief, not all bats live in caves. These flying mammals’ other popular locations include trees, mountains, deserts, rock cracks, barns, and even rooftops.
Bats are known to be nocturnal animals. They mostly do the prey searching at night and hibernate during the day. These creatures have poor vision, and they emit echoes to detect and locate targets in the dark.
Bats plays a vital role in the ecosystem; however, they are also responsible for carrying deadly diseases, including rabies.
Bats can transmit rabies to humans through bites and scratches, often through the Lyssavirus (which they commonly carry). Although deaths from classical rabies are uncommon worldwide and almost unheard of in Australia, the Lyssavirus can and often does infect people with rabies – which is why bat bites are one of the most common sources of rabies in Australis
When people do get rabies from the bite or scratch of an infected animal, there is a high chance of it being fatal.
Take note that bat bites can be very small and barely visible to the naked eye. The bitten person might not always know if they are exposed to the rabies virus until the symptoms kick in.
The best way to protect oneself and others from bats is to stay away from their habitats. Seek medical care even with the slightest contact with these flying mammals.
What Should I Do If I Encounter A Bat?
Watch out for any signs of rabies infection following a bat bite, scratches, or even exposure to infectious material (such as saliva or brain matter).
Check if any of these gets into the eyes, nose, mouth, or in an open wound. If so, wash the wound thoroughly using soap and water and seek medical care right away.
If possible, capture the bat (or seal it’s remains in a plastic bag) and send it to a laboratory for rabies testing. Be careful not to get to close, and get bitten or scratched again in the process.
When Spending Time Outdoors
It is common and normal to see bats flying outside, especially at dusk and through the night. Avoid touching or even going near these mammals to prevent bites and scratches.
Use protective screens, close tents, and mosquito netting for a safe time outdoors.
When Inside The Home
The appearance of bats inside the home requires a call to local emergency services and authorities.
Call local animal welfare, wildlife conservation, or a public health agency to remove the bat inside the home. If professional assistance is unavailable, try to catch the bat for further testing safely – being careful to wear protective gear, and avoid getting bitten or scratched in the process.
Treatment For Bat Bites Or Scratches
Getting appropriate treatment is extremely important after bat bites or scratches, even if the person is already vaccinated.
Appropriate first aid treatment for bat bites include:
- Thorough washing the wound with soap and water immediately kills viruses that may have been introduced through exposure.
- After washing, apply an antiseptic. We recommend using Betadine (with the active ingredient povidone-iodine) or alcohol (ethanol).
- See a doctor to receive treatment with rabies immunoglobin. The injection will provide extra protection against the Lyssavirus if not previously vaccinated.
- Four doses (of five in people with the weak immune system) of rabies vaccine on the first day of exposure and the following days – 3, 7, and 14 if the person has not been immunised.
If the person has prior immunisation, there will only be a requirement of two doses of rabies vaccine on the first and third day.
If the bat remains inside and outside the home or is still in the area, call animal control or a bat care organisation within site. Don’t handle a bat on your own. Get help right away.
Learn first aid to understand proper wound care and prevent infection from animal bites and scratches.
Visit First Aid Courses Darwin for more information.