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Bat Rabies (Human Infection) in Australia

11 Mar 2013

An eight-year-old boy has died in Queensland, Australia, the third recorded fatality due to Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV) since it was recognised in 1996. The boy is believed to have been bitten or scratched by an unknown species of bat three weeks before presentation of symptoms.

The previous two human cases of ABLV (1996 and 1998) are believed to have acquired their infection from two different species of bat; a flying fox and a yellow-bellied sheathtail bat. ABLV is the only lyssavirus known to be present in Australia.

Advice for Travellers

Travellers should be aware that bats in any country have the potential to carry rabies virus. Those at risk from bats e.g. bat handlers or cavers, should be vaccinated against rabies. Travellers should avoid handling injured or sick bats and report any exposure. Bat bites are not always felt, particularly if bitten while asleep.