Australian Bat Lyssavirus a Worry for Vets and Horse Owners

Confirmation of a horse with Australian bat lyssavirus could increase disease risk to Australian veterinarians and horse owners, says the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA).

“This is the first time we have seen this virus in a horse, so there are a lot of unknowns at this point,” said AVA spokesperson Chris Reardon, BVSc(Hons), BSc(Hons), MACVSc, CMAVA. Biosecurity Queensland announced May 17 that a horse euthanized May 11 had tested positive for the virus.

“In the past, people have become infected with the deadly lyssavirus by being scratched or bitten by a flying fox or micro bat, and we don’t know whether a horse could infect a human or not,” Reardon continued. “We’ll be very keen to hear more information as the Queensland government investigates this case. In the meantime, it’s essential that people stay away from flying foxes. Don’t handle them under any circumstances unless you’ve been vaccinated.

“Horse owners need to call their vet straight away if they notice any signs of illness, and keep sick horses away from people and other animals,” Reardon stressed. “Making sure you wash your hands and maintain good hygiene around sick horses is always a good idea, and these measures will be helpful in preventing infection from a sick horse.”

Reardon added, “Australian bat lyssavirus is similar to rabies, but a completely different virus. The rabies vaccine works against lyssavirus because of the similarity between the two.”

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