20 Apr 2016
A Millfield girl has been given precautionary vaccinations for rabies after she recently stepped on a bat skull at a local park.
Paryss Morton, 10, was playing at Crawfordville Park a couple of weeks ago when she slid down a pole and landed on the skull, its teeth penetrating her foot.
Her mum Sonya sought immediate medical advice, thinking Paryss may need a tetanus shot.
She was shocked to find out that bats can carry the rare-but-deadly lyssavirus – which is closely related to rabies.
Australian bat lyssavirus is unlikely to survive in a dead bat for more than a few hours.
As the skull had no skin or fur, the bat had probably been dead for much longer than that.
But Paryss will undergo a course of rabies vaccinations, just to be safe.
“It’s pretty scary; a lot of kids don’t know not to pick them up or how dangerous they are,” Mrs Morton said.
“There needs to be more awareness.”
A colony of about 30,000 bats is located at East Cessnock, about 13 kilometres from Millfield.
The bats take off on dusk and return to East Cessnock just before sunrise.
Mrs Morton said she has seen hundreds of bats fly over Millfield each evening for the past two months, with about 30 hanging around in trees on her property at night, before taking off again in the morning.
“There has been poop all over our car and washing,” she said.
“We can hear them screeching and fighting.
“They have big wings, the kids get a bit scared.”
The Hunter’s flying fox population is on the rise – the East Cessnock bat colony has tripled in size this summer, while Singleton’s Burdekin Park has been forced to close.
Lorn and Blackalls Park are among other Hunter suburbs where flying foxes have taken up residence.
Member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon has called for a Senate inquiry into the region’s flying fox problems.
Along with the Australian bat lyssavirus, bats can also carry Hendra and Menangle virus.
Live bats should not be handled by anyone who is not vaccinated against rabies.
People should also avoid direct contact with dead bats, instead using a shovel, gloves or a plastic bag.
Anyone bitten by a bat should wash the wound thoroughly, apply antiseptic and seek medical attention.
If you find an injured bat in the Hunter Region, contact the Native Animal Trust Fund’s 24-hour emergency rescue hotline on 0418 628 483.