Update on Equine Australian Bat Lyssavirus Case

Chief veterinary officers from across Australia met May 21 to discuss the Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV) case confirmed in a horse on the Southern Downs in Queensland. This case, which Biosecurity Queensland reported May 17, is the first known case of ABLV identified in a horse

Queensland's Chief Biosecurity Officer Jim Thompson, BVSc, MACVSc, said Biosecurity Queensland officers revisited the property May 21 and reported that no animals were showing any signs of illness.

"A number of options for managing the property were considered yesterday by the chief veterinarians," Thompson said. "Biosecurity Queensland will be discussing these options with the property owner, including isolation and potential vaccination of animals and will continue to work closely with them in managing the situation.

"Through our understanding of this virus, it is believed that the infected horse was most likely infected through being scratched or bitten by a bat," he added. "Testing has confirmed the virus in the infected horse was the type of ABLV found in one species of insect-eating microbats, not flying foxes."

Thompson said researchers from the Queensland Centre for Emerging Infectious Disease had been conducting property profiling to identify the type of bats and their movements in the area.

"Through their initial work, researchers have identified microbats in the area, including microbats roosting in buildings on the property," Thompson said. "I must reiterate that we haven't before seen ABLV in a horse in Australia, however, experts from around the country are continuing to work together to learn more about the virus.

"As has been our long-standing advice, it is recommended that animal owners take all reasonable steps to keep their animals away from bats," he stressed. "This may include restricting animals at night, particularly when bats are feeding. If owners suspect an animal might have been bitten or scratched by a bat, they should contact their local veterinarian.

"It is also important to ensure sound hygiene and biosecurity measures are routinely adopted for all contact with animals including their saliva, blood, and other body fluids and associated equipment," Thompson concluded. "This is to protect people against a number of diseases that can be transferred, not just ABLV."

In a recent press release, Australian Veterinary Association spokesperson Chris Reardon, BVSc(Hons), BSc(Hons), MACVSc, CMAVA, said ABLV is "similar to rabies, but a completely different virus."

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