Spike in sick and dying bats 'sparks concern' in Broome, AustraliaA spike in cases of a deadly bat virus in some parts of Australia’s north has sparked concern, with dying animals being found in the streets close to schools and childcare centres. Australian bat lyssavirus is similar to rabies, causing a rapid death if passed from an animal to a human. In recent months, it has been detected in 11 bats in the West Australian town of Broome in the Kimberley region. Prior to that, there had been only two cases identified in Western Australia in a decade. There has also been an increase in sick bats being found in Queensland. Senior Public Health nurse Ashley Eastwood is based in Broome and has been monitoring the numbers. “In 2014, we became aware that something was happening in the bat colony with these cases popping up,” she said. “We don’t know exactly what’s caused it. “There are investigations going on through the Department of Parks and Wildlife, and the Department of Agriculture, wondering what’s actually going on in the colony. “There’s been speculation perhaps lots of fires around last year, there’s a particularly hot season, and that could be disturbing that colony.” Human infections occurred in Australia in 1996, 1998, and 2013 and proved fatal in all three cases. Of concern is also the fact that several of the dying bats had been located right in the middle of ‘Old Broome’, on thoroughfares used by children to get to school each day. Ms Eastwood said the Health Department was running an education campaign targeting local schools. “We have ‘children and bats’ posters and flyers in schools, just providing children with some education around bats,” she said “It’s saying to children that if you find an injured or orphaned flying bat or dead bat, not to handle it, but to let an adult know who will notify parks and wildlife, or a wildlife carer.” People are being urged not to touch a bat they find sick or injured on the ground and try to avoid being swooped. If someone is scratched or bitten, they are advised to wash the wound thoroughly for at least five minutes with warm soapy water, and seek medical attention immediately. MORE