Monday, June 3, 2013

Rabies in Australia?

Bats may transmit Australian bat lyssavirus.
Any Australian bats may carry Australian Bat Lyssavirus.

I'm working on an article on Australian Bat Lyssavirus infection in horses. Tonight, 60 Minutes screened a segment on the death of an eight year old child, Lincoln Flynn, from ABLV.

It was absolutely heartbreaking. ABLV was first identified in Australia in 1996. Since then there have been three human deaths attributed to the virus (all in Queensland), and now we know that some horses have also died as a result of the disease.

You can read more about Australian Bat Lyssavirus Infection here. Like rabies there is a long incubation period and infection is invariably fatal. Once clinical signs appear, post-exposure prophylaxis doesn't help.

It was very sad hearing Lincoln's parents describe their experience, but incredible that Lincoln was able to communicate some important messages - including how he contracted the virus - even in the terminal stages of his disease.

Anyone with any potential contact with bats should be mindful of the risks of zoonotic disease (read here). Thorough wound care (including washing the wound with soap or iodine and rinsing thoroughly) followed by Post-exposure prophylaxis is recommended in the event of a scratch or bite.

Importantly, this is an area where more research is desperately needed, as one thing we really don't understand is the current risk to human and animal health posed by this infection.