Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cairns Vet bat warning

Cairns Vets spend a lot of time working with wildlife brought to their clinics by FNQ Wildlife Rescue, wildlife carers or members of the public.  In many cases these animals have been injured or ill, and many others are immature animals like baby birds which have fallen from the nest.  In most cases, using common sense to avoid injury means there is little risk to members of the public in handling these animals, and picking up injured animals and taking them to your vet or Wildlife Rescue is a great way to help animals and the environment.
When it comes to flying foxes or other bats though, Cairns Vet Clinic advises you to never handle these animals, but instead call Wildlife Rescue or Tolga Bat Hospital who will organise a volunteer to safely collect the animal and take it for veterinary care or to an accredited wildlife carer as required.
The reason for this precaution is that Australian bats including flying foxes can carry a rabies-like virus called Lyssa Virus.  Exposure to this virus can cause fatal encephalitis.  Vaccination with rabies vaccine can prevent infection, and all bat-handlers are required to be vaccinated against Rabies.
As our Cairns Vet Clinic staff have not had the rabies vaccine and we value your safety, we advise you never to handle bats and do not bring them to us, but instead contact your local wildlife carers who can contact a vaccinated bat handler.

Australian Bats carry many viruses: the most well known are Lyssa-virus discussed above and Hendra Virus which has become well known as a cause of death in horses and vets.  There are many other endemic viruses in bat populations: many may be harmless but very little is known about most of them.  Both Hendra and Lyssa Virus are at particularly high levels in birthing fluids and membranes.

Today's report (below) in the Cairns Post about birth abnormalities in flying foxes near the Cairns City Library misses a vital point: some viral infections in animals can cause birth defects and abortion, and also the types of stresses such as infections and toxicities which could cause these birth defects would often cause other health problems such as immunosuppression which makes bats more vulnerable to viral infections such as Lyssa Virus and Hendra Virus which may increase the risk of infections in humans and other species.  Thus aborted, stillborn or deformed bats may pose a greater than normal risk of viral infection and should be handled as possibly infectious.

A suitable addendum to this article is: Never handle a dead, sick, injured or aborted bat.  If you discover a sick or injured bat, contact your local wildlife rescue organisation.  If you discover a dead or aborted bat, use gloves and a plastic bag to dispose of it safely.
Read the Cairns Post Article Mystery of the Mutant baby bats below.

Mystery of the mutant baby bats

Daniel Bateman

Saturday, November 6, 2010

© The Cairns Post


AUTHORITIES will investigate why a mass of deformed baby flying foxes have been found among the permanent colony at Cairns Library in the city.

More than 100 newborn spectacled flying foxes with deformities such as cleft palates and twisted limbs have been found by wildlife carers underneath trees near the library colony since the start of the year.

James Cook University bat researcher Karen Wilson said while it was not unusual to have some deformed babies among a colony, it was unusual to have so many.

Ms Wilson, who also works as a vet at the Cairns Airport Veterinary Surgery, believed the cause may have been chemical spraying or other environmental stress.

"The reasons behind this – it would be great to see if it can be avoided again," she said.

"If there is some chemical use that has caused it, or whether there has been some construction around that may have upset them – I don’t know."

The permanent library colony normally has up to 100 baby deaths during flying fox birthing season, from October to December.

In 2008, a spike in the number of newborn bat deaths baffled experts.

The colony is a major attraction in the city, with the large numbers of the animals flying overhead each afternoon.

Cairns Regional Council has referred the matter to the Department of Environment and Resource Management and the CSIRO for investigation.

The council’s natural areas management co-ordinator, Russell Wild, said it was too early to know exactly what was the cause of the abnormalities.

"Until there is some science behind all this and we know what is likely to be going on, there is nothing we can do until we do that investigation," Mr Wild said.

"I think it’s best left to Queensland Parks and Wildlife and the appropriate officers to investigate, and we’ll file any recommendations they provide."

* Residents who encounter any dead or injured flying foxes at the library should contact DERM on 1300 130 372 or Far North Queensland Wildlife Rescue on 4053 4467.

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