Deadly virus discovered in flying foxes

Worried residents are calling for a cull of flying foxes to help stop the spread of a deadly disease across Victoria.

The highly contagious Lyssavirus was discovered in a fruit bat colony in Yarra Bend, Kew east.

Detected in a flying fox, the disease can be fatal for humans. Residents who live near them are being urged to avoid any contact.

Chief Health Officer Dr Rosemary Lester issued this warning today: "Under no circumstance should people handle flying foxes on their property as some diseases they carry, such as Australian Bat Lyssavirus, are transmissible to humans."

The virus is similar to rabies. Those infected can suffer symptoms, including paralysis, high fever and severe confusion.

(Credit: 7News) Bat colony at Yarra Bend is multiplying.
(Credit: 7News) Bat colony at Yarra Bend is multiplying.

Some residents living nearby say culling the multiplying bat population could help to halt the spread of the disease.

One resident told 7News: "I don't have any feelings for the bats - they are a menace, destructive and smelly.

"They should have controlled them with some sort of culling a long time a go. If they have got a disease that's fatal to human then perhaps this is the time to control them."

Another resident added: "We're concerned about any infectious disease they can bring, particularly as they are in such great numbers. We'd like to see smaller numbers."

There have been two deaths caused by Lyssavirus in Australia over the past fifteen years.

The threat to humans is via direct contact either bites or scratches.

More on Lyssavirus facts and help centres

It is estimated there are 50, 000 flying foxes state-wide, and some 16,000 at Yarra Bend.

The concentration of the flying fox population increased at the park after they were controversially relocated from the Botanic Gardens.

Since 1996, a total of 10 Victorian flying foxes have been found carrying the virus, but no human cases have ever occurred in the state.

Anyone who encounters a sick or injured flying fox should call the DSE customer service centre on 136 186.

If someone is bitten or scratched by a flying fox, they are advised to wash the area with soap and water and seek medical help.

See 7News @ 6pm for the full report.