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Deadly virus is found in bats in South Australia

A deadly virus has been found in bats in South Australia, prompting experts to warn the ‘rabies-like disease’ could kill humans if untreated.

SA Health released a statement on Thursday urging locals heading outdoors to avoid any contact with bats.

Dr Louise Flood, the Department for Health and Wellbeing’s Communicable Disease Control Branch, said this is the third time Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABL) had been confirmed in bats in South Australia.

‘ABL is a rabies-like disease that can be transmitted to humans if they are bitten or scratched by an infected bat and if treatment is delayed until after the onset of symptoms, the condition is invariably fatal,’ Dr Flood said. 

A deadly virus has been found in bats in South Australia , prompting experts to warn the 'rabies-like disease' could kill humans if untreated (stock photo)

A deadly virus has been found in bats in South Australia , prompting experts to warn the 'rabies-like disease' could kill humans if untreated (stock photo)

A deadly virus has been found in bats in South Australia , prompting experts to warn the ‘rabies-like disease’ could kill humans if untreated (stock photo)

If treatment is delayed until after the onset of symptoms, the condition is 'invariably fatal', doctors have warned

If treatment is delayed until after the onset of symptoms, the condition is 'invariably fatal', doctors have warned

If treatment is delayed until after the onset of symptoms, the condition is ‘invariably fatal’, doctors have warned 

Anyone bitten or scratched by a bat, or who has come into contact with bat saliva, should immediately clean the area for at least five minutes and apply an antiseptic

Anyone bitten or scratched by a bat, or who has come into contact with bat saliva, should immediately clean the area for at least five minutes and apply an antiseptic

Anyone bitten or scratched by a bat, or who has come into contact with bat saliva, should immediately clean the area for at least five minutes and apply an antiseptic

‘While only one per cent of bats usually carry ABL, these two recent exposures are concerning and is an important reminder that bats should only ever be handled by appropriately trained and vaccinated animal handlers.

‘While the development of ABL from bat bites or scratches can be prevented through prompt wound management and post exposure prophylaxis, it is important to avoid contact in the first place.’

Dr Mary Carr from the Department of Primary Industries warned pet owners to keep their animals away from bats. 

‘If you suspect your animal has been either bitten or scratched by a bat please contact your local vet or the Emergency Animal Disease hotline on 1800 675 888,’ she said.

Last year there were nine cases of humans being exposed to bats that required precautionary treatment, including rabies vaccine.

Anyone bitten or scratched by a bat, or who has come into contact with bat saliva, should immediately clean the area for at least five minutes and apply an antiseptic.  

SA residents who come across a bat that appears to be dead, injured or in distress should contact Fauna Rescue SA.

What is Australian bat Lyssavirus?

Rabies virus and Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV) belong to a group of viruses called lyssaviruses. These viruses are usually transmitted via a bite from an infected (‘rabid’) animal. 

They all cause a similar illness known as rabies, which affects the central nervous system and is usually fatal. The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 55,000 people die from rabies worldwide each year. 

Rabies virus does not currently occur in land dwelling animals in Australia. However, ABLV, which is closely related but not identical to rabies virus, does occur in Australia, and can be transmitted from bats to humans. 

Only three cases of human infection with ABLV have been recorded since the virus was first identified in 1996. All three cases were in Queensland and all died as a result of A​BLV infection after being bitten or scratched by bats. 

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