Tamworth man feared fatal virus after bat attack

A TAMWORTH man has been tested for a potentially fatal virus after a flying fox attacked him in his driveway last week.

Fifty-seven-year-old Shayne Lewis said  he was standing in his driveway a week ago on Saturday  about 8pm when he felt something from behind.

“At first I thought it was someone attacking me, but it was a large bat on my back,” Mr Lewis said.

“It grabbed me for about 15 or 20 seconds and left a big scratch on my back.”

Mr Lewis said he then fell over onto his back, killing the bat and tearing the rotator cuff on his right arm.

“I didn’t know what to do so I drove myself to Tamworth Hospital,” he said.

At the emergency department Mr Lewis was treated with immunoglobulin to fight potential infection and was told he would have to return to be treated with a course of vaccines.

He was told to wrap the animal in plastic and return with it to the hospital for testing.

Mr Young said he was relieved when tests showed the flying fox was not carrying the lyssavirus, but wanted to warn others to look out for the animals.

“I think people should know they’re not just cute, tame animals. It was a very scary experience,” he said.

A mate, “David”, saw Shane at the hospital and couldn’t believe the story 

“Isn’t that the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard ?” he said.

“It’s scary too, isnt it, but the fact he killed the bat, that was obviously hanging on for grim death, it’s just something you would never think you would hear about”. 

Hunter New England Health  immunisation co-ordinator Patrick Cashman said some bats did carry a potentially fatal, rabies-type virus called lyssavirus.

The virus is found in bats’ saliva and is transmitted to humans through bites and scratches.

Two people died in the 1990s as a result of it.

While not many bats carried the virus, Mr Cashman said the seriousness of the disease meant all bites and scratches from bats were treated as suspicious.

Anyone injured by a bat is treated with a two-week course of vaccines and an immunoglobulin.

Mr Cashman said people should avoid contact with bats, with injuries from the animals “not uncommon”.

He said many people were bitten or scratched when they tried to help injured animals or free those trapped in netting and fences.

A wildlife rescue organisation should be contacted instead.

If a bite or scratch is sustained, it should be washed thoroughly with soap and water or antiseptic, even if it is a minor wound.

Medical attention should be sought.

Lyssavirus can not be caught from bat droppings or being near bats.

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