After an infection of Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV) – which causes a serious, rabies-like illness in humans – was confirmed in North Queensland in early December, Travelvax Australia has issued an alert over the heightened risk of contact during bat breeding season in Australia.
Australian health advice resource healthdirect.gov.au explains that ABLV can be transmitted from bats to humans via a bite or scratch from an infected bat. And while ABLV is ‘very rare’, Health Direct notes that it is fatal if it is not treated.
While the disease is unlikely to spread on any mass level (bats who become infected die from the disease, and lyssavirus in bats is more likely isolated to one bat, or a small cluster closely hanging together), with the possibility of bat-human transmission, and the health risk it poses to humans, people are still advised to be careful, and not try to handle bats.
International travellers in the region, or planning trips to the region should be pre-warned of this health risk, and insurers should be aware of the need for appropriate vaccinations (much like a rabies jab) and the increased risk of exposure to ABLV pre-travel if travellers wish to engage in bat-handling or working with bats during their overseas trip.
Public Health Medical Officer Dr Annie Preston-Thomas noted that most of the injuries occurred because of people trying to help bats in distress. “We would urge you, don't try and rescue the bat yourself,” she said to the public.