Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Lyssavirus (ABLV)

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Lyssavirus (ABLV) is a virus that can spread from bats to humans, causing serious illness. It is closely related to the rabies virus.
  • ABLV is very rare, but can be fatal if not treated.
  • Any bat in Australia is assumed to carry ABLV. If you are bitten or scratched by a bat, you should quickly and thoroughly clean the wound and seek medical attention.
  • The best way to prevent ABLV is to avoid touching bats.

What is lyssavirus (ABLV)?

Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV) is a virus that can spread from bats to humans, causing serious illness. ABLV is closely related to the rabies virus, which is another type of lyssavirus.

Animals in Australia do not have rabies. Overseas, rabies occurs in dogs, cats, monkeys and foxes. ABLV does occur in Australian bats. ABLV can be transmitted from bats to humans via a bite or scratch from an infected bat.

ABLV is very rare; only 3 cases of human deaths from with ABLV have been recorded since the virus was first identified in 1996. However, ABLV is fatal if it is not treated. Any bat in Australia, including flying foxes and fruit bats, is assumed to potentially carry ABLV.

What are the symptoms of ABLV?

At first, symptoms of ABLV infection are similar to those of the flu. They include headache, fever and fatigue.

The illness then rapidly progresses to paralysis, delirium, convulsions and death within 1 to 2 weeks.

Symptoms may start at any time from only a few days to after several years after contact with the virus.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

How is ABLV treated?

ABLV can be prevented by rapid and thorough cleaning of the wound and by vaccination. Even if you have had the rabies vaccine, if you are bitten or scratched by a bat in Australia, you should immediately:

  • wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water for at least 15 minutes
  • apply an antiseptic with anti-virus action such as povidone-iodine, iodine tincture, aqueous iodine solution or alcohol (ethanol) after washing
  • seek medical attention as soon as possible to care for the wound and to assess whether you are at risk of infection. If you have been bitten on the head or neck, you will need to be vaccinated within 48 hours

There is no available treatment for ABLV once symptoms have started.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Can ABLV be prevented?

The best way of avoiding ABLV is to not touch bats. If you come across an injured bat, contact the Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) organisation on 1300 094 737. WIRES have staff who are trained in how to handle bats safely.

As the ABLV virus is unlikely to survive outside the animal for more than a few hours, you are not likely to get ABLV from exposure to bat faeces (poo), urine or blood. Living, playing or walking near bat roosting areas does not pose a risk of contracting ABLV, as long as bats are not touched. Contact with any bat fluids should generally be avoided.

You may need to be vaccinated if your work involves contact with certain animals, or if you are travelling to areas where you are at risk of catching ABLV. Because the viruses are from the same ‘family’, the vaccination is the same as the one given for rabies. Talk to your doctor before beginning work with animals or travelling to ensure that you receive the right advice about vaccinations.

ABLV vaccine

Vaccination is your best protection against ABLV. This table explains how the vaccine is given, who should get it, and whether it is on the National Immunisation Program Schedule. Some diseases can be prevented with different vaccines, so talk to your doctor about which one is appropriate for you.

When to get vaccinated?

Before you start working with certain animals that might put you at risk of ABLV.

Before you go overseas to countries where there is rabies. You should consult your doctor or visit a travel health clinic 6 to 12 weeks before you leave Australia.

How many doses are required? 3 doses over 1 month.
How is it administered? Injection
Is it free?

No, there is a cost for this vaccine.

Find out more on the Department of Health website and the National Immunisation Program Schedule, and ask your doctor if you are eligible for additional free vaccines based on your situation or location.

Common side effects The vaccine is very safe. Side effects may include a sore arm, swelling where the injection went in, headache or nausea.

Resources and support

For more information, visit the Department of Health’s page on lyssaviruses.

If you need to know more about ABLV or need advice on what to do next, call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 to speak with a registered nurse, 24 hours, 7 days a week (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2021

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Australian Bat Lyssavirus

Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV) is a virus that can be transmitted from bats to humans, causing serious illness.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Rabies and lyssavirus

Rabies virus and Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV) belong to a group of viruses called lyssaviruses.

Read more on WA Health website

Rabies and Australian bat lyssavirus infection fact sheet - Fact sheets

Lyssaviruses are a group of viruses that includes rabies and bat lyssavirus. Lyssavirus is carried by bats in Australia. Rabies is carried by mammals in many overseas countries. Both are spread by bites and scratches.

Read more on NSW Health website

Rabies virus & Australian bat lyssavirus | SA Health

Australian bat lyssavirus and rabies virus - potentially fatal diseases spread to humans through a bite or scratch from an infected animal

Read more on SA Health website

Bats and human health

Bats and flying foxes may carry bacteria and viruses which can be harmful to humans but the risk of infection is low.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Diseases | SafeWork NSW

Occupational diseases are acute, recurring or chronic health problems caused or aggravated by work conditions or practices.

Read more on Safe Work Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.