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Safe bat handling

Bats should only be handled by workers and volunteer carers who have a current rabies vaccination, are trained in the safe handling of bats and are wearing suitable personal protective equipment. Workers who handle bats must be properly protected against the risk of being infected with Australia bat lyssavirus.

This film discusses the importance of training in the safe handling of bats and wearing personal protective equipment.

Watch the film and share it with people at your workplace or property.

Download a copy of this film (ZIP/MP4, 26MB)

Dr Mandy Paterson, Principal Scientist RSPCA Queensland Inc:

Voice over: Workers and volunteers who handle bats at workplaces may be exposed to the risk of Australian bat lyssavirus.

Although the prevalence of lyssavirus in bats is low, human infection is serious and invariably fatal.

For this reason it is important that all bat handlers are properly protected against the risk of being infected.

Any Australian bat has the potential to be infected with the virus. Infection occurs if people are bitten or scratched by an infected bat.

Infection may also occur if the saliva, brain or spinal cord of an infected bat comes into contact with a person's non-intact skin, meaning a cut or wound, or in contact with their eyes, nose or mouth.

A number of precautions should always be taken to reduce the potential for infection:

  • Only handle bats if you have a current rabies vaccination.
  • Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment to avoid being bitten or scratched.

The type of personal protective equipment may vary depending on the task you are performing and the species or size of the bat being handled.

  • Wear a long sleeved shirt and long pants to protect your arms and legs.
  • Wear suitable gloves to protect your hands.

Only use puncture resistant gloves showing this pictogram. The number shows the puncture resistance rating, with 4 providing the highest level.

By having a selection of gloves available with varying puncture resistant ratings, you can choose the most suitable gloves for the task that you are performing and for the species of bat that you are handling.

A puncture resistant gauntlet or sleeve protector will also protect your forearm and the back of your hand from bites and scratches.

Wear safety glasses or a face shield if you are at risk of being scratched or bitten on the face. This can occur when you are working at eye level with bats.

Cover any cuts on your skin, and wash your hands before and after handling bats and after removing your personal protective equipment. This helps to protect both you and the bats in your care.

Regularly clean your personal protective equipment too.

Keep bats calm by using items such as towels and teats so they're less likely to bite and scratch.

Using items like tongs to feed bats can also prevent bites.

Get appropriate training and work with more experienced bat handlers to develop skills in handling bats to reduce your risk of being bitten or scratched.

Onscreen text and voice over: If you have been bitten or scratched by a bat, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water for five minutes, then apply an iodine or alcohol containing antiseptic.

Onscreen text: If the eye, nose or mouth has been exposed, flush thoroughly with water.

It is important that you see a doctor promptly because you may need additional doses of the rabies vaccine.

Voice over: Ensuring current rabies vaccination and preventing bat bites and scratches through the safe handling of bats and wearing personal protective equipment is important to protect your health and safety, and it will also ensure that the bats in your care remain safe and can benefit from the valuable conservation and rescue work that you do.

Thank you slide: Workplace Health and Safety Queensland thank the following people and organisations for their participation in this film:

  • Dr Mandy Paterson, RSPCA Queensland Inc.
  • Denise Wade, Bat Conservation and Rescue Qld Inc.

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RUNTIME: 3 min 34 secs